Movie review – Tropa de Elite (Portuguese)

Tropa de Elite (Elite Squad)

Among a whole crop of Latin American flicks trying to live out the Favela (slums of brazil) based realism premise which came into mainstream with Cidade de Deus’s (City of God, 2002) commercial and artistic triumph and a subsequent cult status, not all of them have been successful to the least barring some movies like the ultra realistic and compelling Tropa de Elite a.k.a Elite Squad. This viciously fascinating and feverishly aggressive thriller is something what can be categorized into a perfect cop movie. Existing in the same cinematic universe as city of God, Elite Squad follows the lives of BOPE (Brazilian police similar to USA’s SWAT) officers and their battle against the drug mafia as well as within the police department. While City of God followed the world of wannabe criminals and their psychic warlords, Elite Squad plunges into the shady two timing and corrupt Brazilian police department while trying to repress the equally bothersome drug mafia operating from the slums. Opening through the first person account of Capitão Nascimento (A brilliant Wagner Moura who later came into mainstream appreciation for his fabled depiction of drug lord Pablo Escobar in the Netflix blockbuster Narcos) Elite Squad plot develops through the captain’s tribulations of balancing his personal and work life – which reaches a point where he is ordered one final job of cleaning up the slums prior to the POPE’s arrival and subsequently select a successor from a crop of rookies before he leaves the force for good. Lieutenant Matias and Netos lives ensnare with the captain as potential alternates for his post when he tries to train them for the elite squad membership. The screenplay switches between these 3 officers and pushes the plot ahead albeit chaotically through the Favelas and sleaze ridden Brazilian ghettos. The training segment of the commandos is highly inspired from the 1987 Stanley Kubrick classic Full Metal Jacket, to give credit where it’s due. While being not as stylized or visually persuasive as City of God, Elite Squad is more of a docu-fiction type realistic thriller – a strict no-no for those who can’t stand the shaky cam type footage films in natural lighting. While the director José Padilha has based his movie on the book Elite da Tropa which depicts the life of BOPE officers largely as exceedingly violent and endemically corrupt vigilantes, it has come under a lot of flak for justifying or glorifying fascist organizational violence by the regime – a minor flaw if you are willing to overlook the political correctness for the entertainment factor.

Quite ironically, the movie was leaked pre-release and viewed by roughly 10 million Brazilians and still went on to become a box –office sensation in Latin America!

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