Elite Squad

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Elite Squad
Theatrical poster
Directed by José Padilha
Produced by José Padilha
Marcos Prado
Written by Bráulio Mantovani
José Padilha
Rodrigo Pimentel
Based on Elite da Tropa
by André Batista
Luiz Eduardo Soares
Rodrigo Pimentel
Starring Wagner Moura
Caio Junqueira
André Ramiro
Music by Pedro Bromfman
Cinematography Lula Carvalho
Edited by Daniel Rezende
Chris Lebenzon
Zazen Produções
Distributed by Universal Pictures (Brazil)
IFC Films (United States)
Release dates
  • October 5, 2007 (2007-10-05)
Running time 120 minutes
Country Brazil
Language Portuguese
Budget R$11 million
Box office $14,067,078[1]

Elite Squad (Portuguese: Tropa de Elite, pronounced: [ˈtɾɔpɐ dʒi eˈlitʃi] lit. "Elite Troop") is a 2007 Brazilian crime film directed by José Padilha. The film is a semi-fictional account of the Batalhão de Operações Policiais Especiais (BOPE), the Special Police Operations Squad of the Rio de Janeiro Military Police, analogous to the American SWAT teams. It is the second feature film and first fiction film of Padilha, who had previously directed the documentary Bus 174. The script was written by Bráulio Mantovani and Padilha, based on the book Elite da Tropa by sociologist Luiz Eduardo Soares and two former BOPE captains, André Batista and Rodrigo Pimentel.

Elite Squad was an outstanding commercial success, and became a cultural phenomenon in Brazil. The film won the Golden Bear at the 2008 Berlin Film Festival. Its sequel, Elite Squad: The Enemy Within, released in Brazil on October 8, 2010, holds industry records in the country for ticket sales and gross revenue.


The movie begins with a narrator, Captain Roberto Nascimento (Wagner Moura), and he briefly explains how the police and the drug lords of Rio de Janeiro cooperate with each other (policemen collect a weekly bribe to deliberately ignore the drug trafficking and related crimes in the slums) so much that it is unknown who is the bigger criminal, the police or the drug lords.

In medias res, Major Oliveira (Marcelo Valle), a police officer of and his colleagues are shown driving through Morro da Babilônia towards a baile funk to collect the bribe. Nascimento and his other colleagues are also shown in their armored car. Meanwhile, novice police officers André Matias (André Ramiro) and Neto Gouveia (Caio Junqueira) are shown riding a motorcycle at the same favela, though not with the other officers, and with Neto armed with a sniper rifle. Once they make it to a vantage point, Neto uses the telescope of the rifle to check on the police team as they stop near the party and talk to some "high-ranking" drug traffickers. Neto shoots one of them and provokes a deadly gunfight between police and thugs, both sides unaware of where the bullet came from, forcing Mathias and Neto to flee the scene. Nascimento leads his colleagues from BOPE, Rio Special Police Department, heading to the shootout to interfere and save the officers.

Six months earlier, showing Nascimento and his wife Rosane (Maria Ribeiro) during her pregnancy of his first child. Realizing it will not be possible to be such an absent father when his child is born, Nascimento decides to search for a successor for his role as a captain. This coincides with an operation he will have to lead in Morro dos Prazeres in order to secure the location so that Pope John Paul II can spend the night at an Archbishop's home, located near the slum buildings and favelas. The operation will require daily trips into the favela filled with heavily armed drug lords, and Nascimento is initially against it, but is forced by his superiors to accept it, due to Pope's regards and requirements which cannot be annulled.

Meanwhile, Neto's and Matias' debut as police officers take place. Both are honest officers and try to stay out of corruption, but are soon disillusioned by their corrupt superiors. While Neto starts at the police auto mechanic shop as a supervisor, being in charge of fixing run-down police cars and bikes but with no education about cars, Matias is responsible of listening to the police radios and registering every complaint in his small archive office. Both share a small apartment in Rio and are long-time friends and flatmates.

Besides working at the local police, Matias is a Law student at "the best Law university of Rio", according to Nascimento, where his classmates are shown as "young and spoiled" kids that tend to see the police as a repressive unit, and are heavy weed addicts. He soon befriends Roberta (Fernanda de Freitas), Edu (Paulo Viela) and Maria (Fernanda Machado) (whom he later dates). All three work at a NGO that takes care of poor children from a local favela. Roberta dates Rodrigues, who helps Maria administrate the organization, besides representing a senator who sponsors the NGO. Edu also works for Baiano (Fábio Lago), the local dealer, by selling marijuana at his university, to supply the NGO with the money and protection from Baiano's so-called "Red Army". All of them are unaware of Matias's position as an officer (as he keeps it a secret).

Neto is soon bored of working at the mechanic, becoming stressed but fails to be transferred to another department. By riding with his superior Captain Fabio (Milhem Cortaz), he learns about corruption schemes adopted by police officers – commonly, small establishments owners pay periodic bribes to the police to have their presence in front of their places, so they are safer. Another scheme, learned by Matias, is the relocation of dead bodies to other battalion's areas, so that one's criminal statistics will artificially decrease and leave less work to the department charged to the battalion. It is also implied that private tow-trucks are in orders of several superiors to collect money.

Willing to raise some money to fix many police cars at once, Neto build a plan to steal the bribe Oliveira collects periodically from the drug lords and asks Matias and Fabio to help them. Fabio declines the offer, since he will not have a share in it. The duo succeeds in stealing the money, but Oliveira is unhappy with the events and wants a payback for losing his money. However, he thinks Matias and Neto were only following orders from Fabio. By dragging the latter to the baile funk in Babilônia (shown at the beginning), he plans to have him killed there for fooling him, but Neto and Matias follow the police car on the motorcycle, and arrive at the vantage point to protect Fabio. Neto keeps Fabio at gunpoint, and due to a misunderstanding (he is thinking that a dealer is pulling a gun), shoots the dealer, provoking the gunfight. Fabio escapes from his colleagues and shoots them from behind a bar.

It is shown that at the time of the gunfight, Nascimento and his BOPE colleagues were at another favela torturing a suspected criminal to get information of the whereabouts of the body of another young suspected criminal Nascimento captured but released during a previous incursion to that slum. The kid ended up being killed by his superiors, for they do not forgive informants, and his mother visited Nascimento at the police station to claim the missing body. Nascimento thinks of his upcoming child and decides to go after the body, but is called to solve the situation at Babilônia.

After cruising into the favela, killing the criminals and rescuing the trapped officers, Nascimento meets Matias and Neto, who are informed of the preparation course they can apply for to ingress at BOPE. Both decide to give it a try to escape from the corrupted officers, and Nascimento orders them to pick up the bodies, also with the body of the local drug lord (who was killed by Nascimento). Fabio goes with them, seeing an opportunity to be distant from Oliveira (by Nascimento's words; he is unaware that Oliveira is a "baby", compared to BOPE captains). Meanwhile, Nascimento's son, called Rafael, is born, forcing him to find a replacement for his role as a captain.

Just when the course is about to start, Maria manages to bookmark a job interview for Matias. Just after she puts the phone away, her friends from the NGO and Baiano get into the office with a newspaper featuring a picture of Matias and Neto carrying a dead drug lord's body. Enraged by the fact that Maria was bringing a police officer into the slum (even though she was not aware of her lover's part-time job) and that the dead drug lord was his friend, Baiano threatens her and her friends.

The course of BOPE proves to be quite a tough challenge for all officers that enrolled. In the first part of the program, students are trained under extreme pressure and physical punishments, "to eliminate the weak and, mainly, the corrupt", as Nascimento explains, until their spirit is broken or they manage to hold up. It starts with the BOPE members cursing and swearing the officers, beating them up, and forcing them to quit, and the students are forced to stand still and refuse or accept quitting. Several quit, but others move on. It also starts with the next strategy class, and the survival skills (where they are forced to eat food from the ground, and also to lead the team through the swamp). In this region, Fabio gets feet fungus (for leaving his wet boots on) and quits with another candidates, forcing him to build his own grave and carve a stone with his name on it (as a quiting humiliation process).

The second part of the training program begins, and the eight remaining candidates are taught how to shoot, move and invade a favela efficiently and safely. Soon, they are brought into the operation Nascimento was leading to guarantee the safety of the Pope. Matias, still rejected by his friends, confronts Edu and orders him to arrange him a meeting with Romerito, a boy he met at the NGO. The kid has eyesight problems and needs glasses, which Matias had bought. Since it is a suicide mission to get into the slum now that everyone's aware of his job, Matias blackmails Edu to arrange the meeting at the base of the slum, or he will arrest him for selling drugs. However, Neto informs Matias that his job interview is placed for tomorrow and that he confirmed it. Neto offers himself to go in his place while Matias goes to the interview.

Later, Edu reveals the plan to Baiano, and the drug lord decides to take the officer down so that he will not disturb his sells at the university. Once Neto reaches the base of the slum, he gives Romerito the glasses, but soon, Baiano's men corner him. He takes his gun and shoots several of them, but Baiano shoots him in the back. Before finishing him, Baiano checks on his near-dead body, and finds a tattoo on his arm, with two knives and a skull in the middle (BOPE's flag logo) and realizes that he is from BOPE. Knowing that killing an officer from such department is like "signing his own death sentence", as Nascimento says, he decides to hide. He also takes Roberta and Rodrigues to the local hill, where he shoots Roberta in the head and necklaces Rodrigues as the punishment for having brought a police officer to his slum. Neto dies soon afterwards at the hospital, and Maria arrives, apologizing to Matias, but he rejects her for working with criminals and drug dealers.

Seeking revenge, Matias, Nascimento and their fellow BOPE officers start making daily incursions into Baiano's slum to torture people linked to the drug dealer and force them to reveal wherever he is hiding. At Neto's funeral, Maria arrives and tells Matias about Baiano's girlfriend, who maybe knows where he is, and begs him to spare her. Mathias agrees, but lies; Mathias personally tortures her with BOPE soldiers for the information, and she reveals that Edu told Baiano about Matias's meeting. In a rage, he interrupts a peace walk and beats Edu up for indirectly killing his best friend, and Maria tries to stop him and assaults him, but he knocks her down, yells at her that she is a whore and pothead, and to the others as well.

Finally, the officers get to a boy who, after being tortured, reveals the exact location of Baiano. A sniper kills his bodyguard, forcing Baiano to escape. Seeing him running on the roof, Nascimento shoots him, though not fatally. Nascimento steps on Baiano and tells him that he is about to die, but Baiano asks the captain not to shoot him in the face, in order "not to ruin the wake". Nascimento then walks away and grabs a shotgun. He gives it to Matias, saying "do it, he is yours", narrating that he already killed Baiano, but wanted Matias to kill him as a revenge, and to know he is going to be his successor. Matias points the gun to Baiano's face, and the screen whites out, with a gunshot heard.



The movie is based on Elite da Tropa,[2] a book by two BOPE policemen (Batalhão de Operações Policiais Especiais - Rio de Janeiro military police squads for special actions), André Batista and Rodrigo Pimentel, together with sociologist & anthropologist Luiz Eduardo Soares, which provided a semi-fictional account of the daily routine of the BOPE as well as some historical events, based on the experiences of the two BOPE policemen. The book was controversial at the time of release, in its description of the BOPE as a "killing machine", as well as the detailed allegation of an aborted assassination attempt on then left-wing governor of Rio de Janeiro, Leonel Brizola, and reportedly resulted in Batista being reprimanded and censured by the Military Police. Writing about the BOPE caused some discrepancies, however Soares did not retract his novel. [3] The novel had a unique reception when it was translated in 2010. There were many fans of the original novel and film who felt that the Portuguese-English Translation was poor and did not follow the film and vice versa. Ultimately the novel (before translation) received more likeness than the novel in English.

Production leak[edit]

In August 2007, prior to the movie's release to theaters, a preliminary cut of the film was leaked and made available for download on the Internet. The cut, which included English title cards but no subtitles, was leaked from the company responsible for subtitling the film, resulting in one person being fired and a criminal investigation. It was estimated that about 11.5 million people had seen the leaked version of the movie in 2007.[4]


Popularity and box office[edit]

Elite Squad became one of the most popular Brazilian movies in history. According to Datafolha, 77% of São Paulo residents knew about the movie. The word of mouth was also important for the disclosure of the film, with 80% of the people rating the movie as "excellent" or "good", according to the same poll.[5] The movie was released in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo on October 5, 2007 (with the intention of being considered by the Ministry of Culture to compete as the Brazilian entry for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar). It was released nationwide on October 12, 2007. Up to now[when?] 2.5 million people have seen it at the theaters.[6] In Rio and São Paulo, with no promotion other than billboards, 180,000 people saw the movie during its opening weekend.[5][7]

The movie was also the cover issue for the two Brazil's most important weekly magazines, Veja and Época. On the beginning of 2008 it was confirmed that Rede Globo will produce a TV series based on the movie.[8] In 2011 Rockstar Games recommended Tropa de Elite to fans of its video game Max Payne 3,[9] which is set in Brazil and depicts battles between special police units and favela gangs.

Outside Brazil reviews of the film were initially mixed, but after time the film was received more positively. Based on 34 reviews, the film received a 53% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.


When the first version of the film leaked, it caused a major controversy for its portrayal of Captain Nascimento's unpunished police brutality in slums (favelas); some saw it as glamourizing police violence. After its exhibition in Berlin Film Festival, critic Jay Weissberg, in a Variety article, called the movie "a one-note celebration of violence-for-good that plays like a recruitment film for fascist thugs".[10] Michel Misse, a researcher of urban violence in the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, in an article by Carta Capital, tried to explain why some people cheered at Captain Nascimento's actions: "as the judiciary system cannot keep up with the demand for punishment, some may think civil rights leads to unpunishment. And then, they want illegal solutions. That's why Captain Nascimento is called".[11]


On February 16, 2008, Elite Squad won the Best Movie award of the Berlin International Film Festival, the Golden Bear.[12]


The soundtrack of the film was a collection of popular hits, but even the soundtrack would not escape controversy as the Brazilian authorities demanded the removal of MC Leonardo's "Rap das Armas" from the film, because of alleged promotion of violence like use of illegal arms and drugs. The filmmakers complied two weeks after the official release.

  1. "Rap das Armas" - Bateria da Rocinha, MC Leonardo
  2. "Tropa de Elite" - Tihuana
  3. "Rap da Felicidade" - MC Cidinho, MC Doca
  4. "Passa Que é Teu" - Pedro Bromfman
  5. "Brilhar a Minha Estrela" - Sangue da Cidade
  6. "Kátia Flávia, a Godiva do Irajá" - Fausto Fawcett
  7. "Teatro de Bonecos" - Guilherme Flarys, Pedro Guedes
  8. "Polícia" - Titãs
  9. "Invasão do BOPE" - Pedro Bromfman
  10. "Lado B Lado A" - O Rappa
  11. "Andando Pela África" - Barbatuques
  12. "Nossa Bandeira" - Bateria da Rocinha, MC Leonard
  13. "Rap das Armas [Funk]" - MC Leonard


A sequel, named Tropa de Elite 2: O Inimigo Agora É Outro, was released in Brazil on October 8, 2010, and on the U.S. on November 11, 2011.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Elite Squad (2008)". Box Office Mojo. 
  2. ^ "IPS – BRAZIL: Book Takes Dark Journey into World of Police Corruption | Inter Press Service". Ipsnews.net. 2006-07-27. Retrieved 2013-11-17. 
  3. ^ Monken, Mario Hugo. Livro sobre elite da PM do Rio causou punição, diz autor. Folha de S. Paulo. April 29, 2006. Retrieved on September 5, 2007.
  4. ^ Marcelo Cajueiro (2007-10-19). "‘Elite’ stirs controversy, box office". Variety. Retrieved 2013-11-17. 
  5. ^ a b Datafolha (October 6, 2007). ""Tropa de Elite" já foi visto por 19% dos paulistanos". Folha de S. Paulo. 
  6. ^ Ag. Estado (January 11, 2008). "'Tropa de Elite' pode render doações". Agência Estado. 
  7. ^ "Página não encontrada - iG". Ultimosegundo.ig.com.br. Retrieved 2013-11-17. 
  8. ^    (2008-02-18). "Folha Online - Ilustrada - Globo vence Record e leva "Tropa de Elite", informa Daniel Castro". .folha.uol.com.br. Retrieved 2013-11-17. 
  9. ^ R* A (2011-11-10). "Rockstar Recommends: "Elite Squad (Tropa de Elite)"". Rockstar Games. Retrieved December 12, 2012. 
  10. ^ Weissberg, Jay. "The Elite Squad Review", Variety, February 11, 2008. Accessed May 8, 2009.[dead link]
  11. ^ Sousa, Ana Paula. "Herói torturador", Carta Capital. Accessed May 8, 2009.
  12. ^ Collett, Mike (2008-02-16). "Violent Brazil cop drama named best film in Berlin". Reuters. Retrieved 2013-11-17. 

External links[edit]