Tropa de Elite is one of the most powerful movies about urban violence that you will ever see. It is that good. Based on a book by a sociologist and two former members of BOPA, Special Police Operations Battalion of the Rio de Janeiro Military Police, it excels in every possible way. So, this means that the story is mostly based on the true events and experiences of the former members.
The cinematography and production values are excellent but I wish the camera work and lighting were a bit better. However, that’s just a minor flaw in this otherwise phenomenal movie. It’s so refreshing to see a foreign, in this case, Brazilian, thriller masterpiece that I’m sure we’ll keep coming back to for that adrenaline fix. I felt the same when I first saw The Raid: Redemption.
The thing that struck me the most was the sincerity and the brutality of life in Rio De Janeiro. These scenes are not on postcards, they are the reality. And once you realize this, Tropa de Elite becomes something much more than a superb thriller. It becomes more immersive as you think just how fucked up it is to walk the streets as a cop and let alone conduct raids.
Raids where your decision can be the difference between life and death. You also see just how deep and complex this issue is but more about that later. For now, let’s focus on the story.
It is the year 1997 and the day that the pope will walk the streets of Rio De Janeiro is getting closer. This also means that the pressure on Captain Nascimento of BOPA to clean up the slums is rising. And this all sounds perfectly reasonable if weren’t for all the corruption and crime in the city of Rio De Janeiro. And Nascimento just can’t do this anymore. He is searching for his replacement, hoping that it will come soon. However, until that happens he must stay alive.
Now, there’s also the question of the justification of such brute force against criminals. This is clearly a very complex problem that needs to be resolved with the help of every part of society. And I do not think that you should just “go in there and kill them all”. However, this is what actually happened and there’s no going back now. Perhaps this can be a lesson that these problems won’t go away and that the entire society needs to do something about it. Starting with those with the most power and money, as always.
Wagner Moura was so fucking good as Nascimento that the director Padilha edited and reshot parts of the movie just to give him a bigger role. Initially, Neto and Matias were supposed to be the leads. I feel like everybody who worked on Tropa de Elite gave it everything they had. You should also know that there’s a sequel out that’s just as good as the original.
Director: José Padilha
Writers: André Batista, Bráulio Mantovani, José Padilha
Cast: Wagner Moura, André Ramiro, Caio Junqueira, Milhem Cortaz, Fernanda Machado, Maria Ribeiro
Fun Facts: During filming, a production van containing around 30 real guns and 60 prop guns was stolen. The police tried to find all the weapons but managed to retrieve less than half.