out of Five
Running time: 115
Stylishly directed, morally complex and utterly gripping police thriller that merits the comparison to City of God.
What's it all about?
Directed by Jose Padilha, Elite Squad (or Tropa de Elite) is set in 1997 and stars Wagner Moura as Captain Nascimento, the chief of Rio de Janeiro's Elite Police Squad, who have their hands full on a daily basis, tackling both the drug trafficking gangs who control the slums and the large numbers of corrupt cops on the Brazilian police force. And with the added pressure of an imminent visit by the Pope, Nascimento has his work cut out for him.
When his wife falls pregnant, Nascimento decides to quit the Squad, but first he has to find and train his replacement. He narrows the search down to two idealistic rookies: tough, trigger-happy Neto (Caio Junqueira) and socially responsible Matias (Andre Ramiro), who is studying to be a lawyer and has to conceal his dual identity as a cop from both his fellow students and his girlfriend.
The Edinburgh Film Festival brochure describes Elite Squad as "this year's City of God" and for once, that's actually pretty accurate rather than canny bandwagon-jumping. Padilha directs with a pulse-quickening sense of energy that places the viewer slap-bang in the middle of a shoot out and makes you feel like you're actually there.
The performances are excellent, particularly Ramiro, who has both the most complex role and the most screen time - Nascimento's story is actually much less interesting, despite the fact that he's the narrator.
As thrilling as the violence undoubtedly is, there's a lingering, uncomfortable feeling that Elite Squad is quite possibly the most fascistic movie you've ever seen. Admittedly, you're not meant to feel great about Matias losing his humanity and joining the Squad, but it's also made pretty clear that the Squad's special brand of fascism is the only viable solution.
Elite Squad is a superbly directed thriller that delivers plenty of bang for your buck, even if its politics are a little on the dodgy side.
Elite Squad (Tropa de Elite)