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ELITE SQUAD, 2007
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ELITE SQUAD, 2007
Movie Reviews

Directed by José Padilha
Starring: Wagner Moura, AndrÈ Ramiro, Caio Junqueira
Review by Fredric Hammarlund



SYNOPSIS:

Captain Nascimento (Moura) of the BOPE, Rio de Janeiro’s special police, looks for a predecessor while cleaning up the city from drug dealers and corrupt cops. All because the Pope decided to come back to Brazil.

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REVIEW:

Dirty Harry caught his criminals with excessive force. With Captain Nascimento, excessive is just the start of it. His methods makes Guantanamo Bay look bleak. If a suspect doesn’t tell him and his crew what he wants to hear, there is humiliation, assault and torture. Then how does this make an excellent movie?

The streets of Rio de Janiero, Brazil, is one again depicted by writer Br·ulio Mantovani, City of God, (2002). And once again they are grim and ruthless. This time we follow the special police force, the BOPE, as they take on organized crime and corruption in the regular police force. Rio’s regular police officers are presented as both lazy and corrupt. Bureaucracy is turned into business and you can’t even get a vacation without paying anyone off. The BOPE meticulously weed out the bad ones in their search for new recruits. There are of course some decent officers all well and those are the ones that become fundamental to our story.

Nascimento has a son on the way and is suddenly faced with the responsibility as a father and is looking for a way out of the dangers of being a BOPE. Only way for him to quit is to find a replacement. Hope comes to him through recruits Neto (Junqueira) and Matias (Ramiro). Who will take his place?

The movie is partially non-linear and starts off with Neto and Matias finding themselves outmatched and in gang territory. Then we flash back to see how they ended up in this situation. We see them as police aspirants and how they try to do their best, but continuously are being counterworked by the corrupted system. After a run-in with the BOPE both of them find their calling and enroll in the tryouts.

The tryouts are not like any other boot camp. The BOPE training method is based on beating and breaking down their recruits in order to weed out the week and the corrupt. Verbal abuse like: “Mr. 02, you'll never make it through this course, you know why? It's not because you are fucking weak and have no fiber. It's because you're a crooked cop” is mandatory and often combined with physical beatings with sticks. Only a handful of the original recruits will complete the training and then they first have to outlive real training in gang territory before being a part of the skulls.

Nascimento narrates the movie and this device is what gives the movie its depth. Without it we would have a brutal movie about the streets of Rio de Janiero. With it we get both sides of the story and an explanation for the brutality. Nascimento’s conscience becomes ours and he becomes more human in our eyes. Without it we would never identify with this fierce man.

The fascination with this movie begins with the symbiosis between the drug dealers and the corrupt police force and ends with the roughness and impressive force of the BOPE. And Nascimento is our Charon, our guide through hell. This is a solid 5 out of 5.

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