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ELITE SQUAD

Director: JOSE PADILHA

BRAZIL • 2008 • SUBTITLED • COLOUR • DOLBY DIGITAL STEREO • 118 MIN


SO HARD-BOILED IT’S PRACTICALLY CAST IN IRON, BRAZILIAN CRIME SAGA ELITE SQUAD — WHICH WON THE GOLDEN BEAR AT THE BERLIN FILM FESTIVAL — MAKES EVEN THE TOUGHEST RECENT U.S. COP DRAMAS LOOK LIKE HILARY DUFF ROMCOMS.
Hyper-macho, with a steely ring of well-researched realism, the first fiction venture by Jose Padilha — who scored with the 2002 hostage-Crisis documentary Bus 174 — is pitched somewhere between the full-on flash of Brazilian hit City of God and the narrative complexity of tv’s The Wire. Set in Rio in 1997, the story begins with a police stakeout of a funk party in the slums, which degenerates into a bloody shootout. the narrator is Beto nascimento (Wagner Moura), a captain with Brazil’s autonomous, hard-as-nails BOPE, an elite squad of black-bereted commandos whose skull-and-crossbones insignia testifies to their shoot-firsttake- no-prisoners approach. The film tracks Ascimento’s attempt to find his successor in BOPE, so that the officer — increasingly cracking under stress — can settle down with his wife and new baby. The film’s first part narrates the progress of two new police recruits, both bristling with integrity, as they move through a labyrinth of corruption, compromise and backhanding. Detailed and — to all appearances — researched to the hilt, the film paints a bleak picture of Brazilian law and order against the background of nascimento’s mission — to clean up a slum area in the period leading up to a papal visit. Nervy editing, restless hand-held camerawork and the sort of hot earthy tones familiar since City of God and Amores Perros make for a familiar mix, functional rather than innovative but never less than effective. the acting is universally strong.— Jonathan Romney/’Screen international’.

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