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Elite Squad

On the streets of Rio only the Elite Survive. 

Year: 2007 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: Unknown 
Certificate: BBFC 18 Cert – Not suitable for under 18s 
Subtitles: It is expected that this film is fully subtitled. 
Directed by Jose Padilha 
Starring: Wagner Moura, Caio Junqueira, Andre Remiro and Maria Ribeiro.  
An image from Elite Squad

This controversial feature film from acclaimed documentary filmmaker José Padilha is based on a true story of Brazil’s BOPE squad, a crack team of police officers assigned the task of keeping order in the crime-infested slums of Rio de Janeiro. Unconstrained by niggling little factors like ‘due process’, the black-clothed, skull-tattooed law enforcers are free to engage the criminals in balls out, rip-snorting warfare, which they do both frequently and stylishly.

It would be easy to label “Elite Squad” a mere exploitation movie; the cops on display make Dirty Harry look positively liberal while its action movie style undeniably appeals to the little goose-stepping fascist in all of us. This would be doing the film a disservice however. Padilha takes the time to emphasise the consequences of the BOPEs actions and the dehumanising effect the training has on its members, ensuring that it is a multi-faceted portrait of a difficult subject.

Combining bloody gunfights and gruelling torture sequences with challenging, hot-topic issues led to great success on the film festival circuit, winning among other awards the coveted ‘Golden Bear’ at the Berlin Film Festival. It has also been compared favourably to crime masterpiece “City of God”, and with good reason; both share the same screenwriter and setting, as well as the gritty camerawork, frantic editing and brutal violence that led to that film being hailed as one of the best films of the decade.

For visceral thrills and a bit of the old political stuff, “Elite Squad” is a must-see.

Phil Goldie

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Screenings of this film:

2008/2009 Spring Term (35mm)