Film and politics have never sat well together. Indeed, Hollywood is comprised mainly of liberals. Hence, we get an unbalanced quantity of output. And when conservatives try to make movies, you get silly films like An American Carol, an attempt to be satirical while being as subtle as a coked-up bull in a Faberge egg store. Arguably, the best political films are the ones that either recognize the complexity of any social situation, or the ones who question their own beliefs and thus avoiding the death-trap of dogma. Elite Squad has topped the Brazilian box office, receiving much critical acclaim, but in the UK and US, the film has received mixed reviews, with many of the negative comments focussing on the film’s politics. But Elite Squad is a film with more depth than some hard-core liberals might want to admit to.
Essentially, Elite Squad is the opposite perspective of the modern classic City of God. Whereas the latter explores the history of Rio’s favelas as told by its residents, Elite Squad focuses on the city’s police force and their attempts to deal with the resident crime-lords. Captain Nascimento heads an “elite squad” of super-troopers, known as BOPE, a hard-core group of gun-toting SWAT teams who take no chances when a situation gets dire. However, Nascimento is tired of his violent life, and the pressure builds as his search for a replacement is intensified by the need to clear up a particular section of the slums to coincide with Pope John Paul II’s visit. The frustrated Nascimento keeps an eye on two candidates, the proactive Neto and the law student Mathias.
On a superficial level, Elite Squad is a blistering assault on the eyes. Shot using shakey-cam techniques, the plot races past, and boasts a level of complexity including Mathias’s relationship with his fellow cop-wary students, an NGO set-up in a favela under close watch from its suspicious drug-baron, and an affluent youth who seem to be part of the problem as opposed to its solution. The worst thing that can be said about this film is that the director’s methods owe a little too much to the City of God and that its own style would have ensured that the film achieved complete distinction.
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