|Directed by||José Padilha|
|Produced by||José Padilha
|Written by||Bráulio Mantovani
|Based on||Elite da Tropa
by André Batista
Luiz Eduardo Soares
|Music by||Pedro Bromfman|
|Edited by||Daniel Rezende
|Distributed by||Universal Pictures (Brazil)
IFC Films (United States)
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 Battalion 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 (City of God) 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.
Captain Roberto Nascimento (Wagner Moura) narrates the film, briefly explaining how the police and the drug lords of Rio de Janeiro cooperate with each other (policemen collect periodic bribes and drug lords are left free to operate) in the 90's.
In 1997, in medias res, officer Captain Oliveira (Marcelo Valle) and his colleagues are shown driving through Morro da Babilônia towards a baile funk. 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. Once they make it to a vantage point, Neto uses the telescope of a sniper rifle to check on the police team as they talk to some 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, Nascimento and his wife Rosane (Maria Ribeiro) are shown during her pregnancy of their first child. Not wanting to be an absent father when his child is born, Nascimento decides to search for a successor for his role as a captain, since he will be promoted to Lieutenant Colonel. This coincides with an operation he will have to lead at Morro dos Prazeres in order to secure the location and clean it of drug dealers, so that Pope John Paul II can spend the night in the 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 as his last mission, due to Pope's regards and requirements which cannot be annulled.
Meanwhile, Neto and Matias debut as police officers. Both are honest 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 the mechanics who are fixing run-down police cars and bikes with parts from newer cars, Matias is responsible for repairing and listening to the police dispatchers and registering and filing every complaint in his small archive office with two other officers. 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 new Law university of Rio", according to Nascimento, where his classmates are shown as well-off young adults that tend to see the police as a repressive unit, while several others are selling marijuana around the campus. He soon befriends Roberta (Fernanda de Freitas), Edu (Paulo Viela) and Maria (Fernanda Machado) (whom he later dates). All three work at an 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. All of them smoke marijuana regularly, with Edu being a salesman at his university for Baiano (Fábio Lago), the local drug lord of the Comando Vermelho gang, who allows the NGO to operate as long as it doesn't interfere with his business or bring police attention. None of the students or dealers are aware of Matias's police career as he keeps it a secret.
Neto is soon tired of working at the mechanic, 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, owners of small establishments pay periodic bribes to the police in exchange for 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, which Matias learns the hard way when his superiors rage at him for filling their department with files they are too lazy to solve. Also, because the local government had no budget to pay tow trucks, they decided to hire private tows and pay for every towed car - towing vehicles had since become a lucrative activity and corrupt officers are shown to own tow trucks.
Wishing to raise some money to fix many police cars at once, Neto comes up with a plan to steal the bribes Oliveira collects periodically from the drug lords and asks Matias and Fabio to help him. Fabio declines, since he will not have a share in it. The duo succeeds in stealing the money, but Oliveira believes Fabio ordered them to do it and drags him to a baile funk in Babilônia, where he plans to give him over to the gang so they can kill him. However, while Neto and Matias (demoted to cooks at the kitchen for being suspects) confront him, he tells them about the funk party, hinting that he is going to be killed. Neto and Matias follow them and arrive at the vantage point to protect Fabio. When one of the dealers touches his gun, Neto opens fire, killing the dealer and provoking a gunfight between the police and dealers. Fabio takes cover behind a bar and engages in a shootout with Olivera's men while his two protectors fight some of the heavily-armed dealers with only two pistols, a rifle and a sub-machine gun, but quickly run out of ammo.
Meanwhile, Nascimento is confronted by a woman trying to locate the body of her son, a lookout for the drug lords. The mother believes her son was murdered after being brutally interrogated and then released by Nascimento. Feeling guilty and thinking of his upcoming child, Nascimento gathers some officers and goes into the slum to look for the boy's body. During the search for the boy, Nascimento is informed of the situation at Babilônia and ordered to intercede. After rescuing the trapped officers at Babilônia, Nascimento meets Matias and Neto and orders them to help clean up the scene. In the process of lifting a body Matias is unwittingly photographed by the press. Soon after, the two friends, along with Fabio, apply for BOPE's training program. Matias and Neto are motivated by their desire to be good police, while Fabio joins due to his fear of retaliation from Oliveira for the shootout. Meanwhile, Rafael, Nascimento's son, is born.
At the NGO office, Maria and her friends are confronted by Baiano, who accuses them of bringing a cop into their group, and shows them a picture in the newspaper of Matias lifting the dead man's body. Baiano threatens the group and instructs them to get rid of Matias as soon as possible, as he is distrusting of police officers.
Soon after, BOPE's training program takes place over a few weeks in the jungle. The course proves a tough challenge: all enrolled officers are subjected to severe physical and psychological punishments and are trained under extreme pressure. Nascimento explains that this is "in order to eliminate the weak and, mainly, punish the corrupt", leaving only the honest and tough ones. Many officers quit the program, including Fabio after he gets foot fungus, but Neto and Matias reach the final level, where they are brought into Nascimento's final operation. Neto also gets a BOPE tattoo.
At school, Matias has been rejected by Maria and her friends who reveal that they know he is a cop. All the same, Matias confronts Edu and orders him to arrange a meeting with Romerito, a boy with eyesight problems who he had promised to help. Because of the danger of the slum, Matias tells Edu he will meet Romerito at an arcade at the base of the slum, to give him his new glasses. Upon returning home however, Neto informs Matias that he arranged a job interview with a law firm that will conflict with his meeting with Romerito. Neto really wants Matias to succeed so he insists that he make the interview and offers to deliver the glasses in Matias' stead.
Edu reveals to Baiano that he had been threatened by Matias, and the drug lord decides to take revenge on Matias for getting his friend killed, as well as interrupting his operations. After giving Romerito his glasses, Neto is ambushed by Baiano and his men. Before finishing him off, Baiano sees Neto's tattoo and realizes he is a BOPE officer. Knowing that killing such an officer will invoke a heated search for himself, he kidnaps Roberta and Rodrigues and murders them, shooting Roberta in the head and burning Rodrigues alive, as a punishment for bringing a BOPE officer in his slum. He then goes into hiding in a Rio favela. Soon after, Neto dies in the hospital.
Seeking revenge, Matias, Nascimento and their fellow BOPE officers start making daily incursions into Baiano's slum to torture dealers into telling them of his whereabouts. One of them reveals that Edu told Baiano about Matias's meeting, which ultimately led to Neto's death. In a rage, Matias interrupts a peace walk, beats Edu up and insults Maria and the others, accusing them of being nothing but spoiled hypocritical drug users working for a dealer to provide for their work.
In the final act, the BOPE officers discover the exact location of Baiano and raid the slum. Baiano tries to escape, but as he runs across the rooftops, he is shot in the chest. Nascimento holds him at gunpoint, but Baiano pleads to the captain not to shoot him in the face, in order to preserve his face "for the wake". Nascimento then walks away, grabs a shotgun, hands it to Matias and tells him to shoot Baiano in the head, as a final test to ascertain Matias's worthiness as his true successor. Matias points the gun to the drug lord's face, cocks the slide, and shows visible hesitation, but does not point the gun away. As the screen cuts to black a final gunshot goes off.
- Wagner Moura as Squad Captain Roberto Nascimento - A captain in the BOPE squad, who is awaiting a promotion that will make his job safer and enable him to spend time with his wife and newborn son. In order to move into his new position he needs to find a worthy successor.
- Caio Junqueira as Aspirant Neto Gouveia - He is a rookie police officer and Matias' best friend. Nascimento describes Neto as being similar to himself when he was younger. He is a tough man, but has a fierce temper as well, and never gives up on his mission. He later joined BOPE to seek out justice and was groomed for Nascimento's spot.
- André Ramiro as Aspirant André Matias - Another rookie police officer, he is also a law student, who wants to specialize in criminal law. He is a resourceful and calculating tactician. He joins BOPE along with Neto Gouveia.
- Maria Ribeiro as Rosane Nascimento - Nascimento's wife. They are expecting their first child. She dislikes Nascimento's frequent absence from home and the dangers associated with his job.
- Milhem Cortaz as Capitão Fábio - One of the captains where Matias and Neto work he develops a sort-of friendship with the two. A former pimp in Copacabana he also runs a protection racket scheme. After Matias and Neto stole the drug payoff he feared that Oliveira would blame him and have him killed.
- Fernanda Machado as Maria - A law student and founding member of the NGO, she is also a marijuana user. She befriends Matias and falls in love with him, but when Baiano finds out that he is a cop, she abandons him for lying to her and because she fears Baiano's retribution. She later helps Matias by giving him the name of Bainao's girlfriend. In the end, Matias insults her and her friends and walks away, ending their relationship.
- André Di Mauro as Pedro Rodrigues - A student who works in the favela's NGO and dates Roberta. As retribution for bringing a cop into the drug dealer's circle of friends, Rodrigues is burned alive inside a stack of tires.
- Paulo Vilela as Edu - Nicknamed "Playboy", he is the main university drug dealer and is close to Baiano, although he is afraid of him. He despises Matias for his defense of police officers.
- Fábio Lago as Baiano - He is a ruthless drug lord who sells marijuana and heroin throughout the university using several students. Unlike many other drug lords, he hates all kinds of cops, even the corrupted ones, and avoids having business with them. Edu is his main seller on the university. He has a small auxiliary that protects the NGO.
- Marcelo Valle as Capitão Oliveira - He is Fabio's rival and superior in the police force, taking over his territory for protection rackets and later allegedly setting him up to be killed.
- Fernanda de Freitas as Roberta Alunde
- Alex Avellar, as 02
- Ricardo Pagotto Piai, as 08
- Guilherme Aguilar, as 07
- Pedro Bonfim, as PM Robson
The movie is based on Elite da Tropa, 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. The writing contained some discrepancies, however Soares did not retract his novel. 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) was more like the film than the novel in English.
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.
Popularity and box office
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. 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. By January 2008, 2.5 million people had seen it in theaters. In Rio and São Paulo, with no promotion other than billboards, 180,000 people saw the movie during its opening weekend.
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 would produce a TV series based on the movie. In 2011 Rockstar Games recommended Elite Squad to fans of its video game Max Payne 3, 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, with its critics' consensus calling it a "brutal, action-heavy Brazilian cop film with a pointless voiceover. Lacks flair, overdoes the violence and is never quite sure where its morals lie".
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". 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".
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.
- "Rap das Armas" - Bateria da Rocinha, MC Leonardo
- "Tropa de Elite" - Tihuana
- "Rap da Felicidade" - MC Cidinho, MC Doca
- "Passa Que é Teu" - Pedro Bromfman
- "Brilhar a Minha Estrela" - Sangue da Cidade
- "Kátia Flávia, a Godiva do Irajá" - Fausto Fawcett
- "Teatro de Bonecos" - Guilherme Flarys, Pedro Guedes
- "Polícia" - Titãs
- "Invasão do BOPE" - Pedro Bromfman
- "Lado B Lado A" - O Rappa
- "Andando Pela África" - Barbatuques
- "Nossa Bandeira" - Bateria da Rocinha, MC Leonard
- "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 in the U.S. on November 11, 2011.
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- "IPS – BRAZIL: Book Takes Dark Journey into World of Police Corruption | Inter Press Service". Ipsnews.net. 2006-07-27. Retrieved 2013-11-17.
- 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.
- Marcelo Cajueiro (2007-10-19). "'Elite' stirs controversy, box office". Variety. Retrieved 2013-11-17.
- Datafolha (October 6, 2007). ""Tropa de Elite" já foi visto por 19% dos paulistanos". Folha de S.Paulo.
- Ag. Estado (January 11, 2008). "'Tropa de Elite' pode render doações". Agência Estado. Archived from the original on 2008-01-15.
- "Página não encontrada - iG". Ultimosegundo.ig.com.br. Archived from the original on 2012-03-28. Retrieved 2013-11-17.
- (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.
- R* A (2011-11-10). "Rockstar Recommends: "Elite Squad (Tropa de Elite)"". Rockstar Games. Retrieved December 12, 2012.
- rottentomatoes.com Elite Squad
- Weissberg, Jay. "The Elite Squad Review", Variety, February 11, 2008. Accessed May 8, 2009. Archived May 9, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.
- Sousa, Ana Paula. "Herói torturador", CartaCapital. Accessed May 8, 2009.
- Collett, Mike (2008-02-16). "Violent Brazil cop drama named best film in Berlin". Reuters. Retrieved 2013-11-17.