Theatrical release poster
|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.
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Captain Roberto Nascimento (Wagner Moura), of BOPE, 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 1990s.
In 1997, in medias res, officer Captain Oliveira (Marcelo Valle) and his colleagues are shown driving through Morro da Babilônia towards a baile funk. 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. From a vantage point, Neto uses the telescope of a sniper rifle to check on the officers 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. Mathias and Neto leave the scene. Meanwhile, Nascimento and his men head to the shootout to rescue the officers.
Six months earlier, Nascimento and his wife Rosane (Maria Ribeiro) are shown during her pregnancy of their first child. Unwilling to be an absent father to his child, Nascimento decides to search for a worthy successor. This coincides with an operation at Morro dos Prazeres set to make the location safe for the visit of Pope John Paul II, who will spend the night in the Archbishop's home located near the slum buildings. Because the operation requires daily trips into the favela filled with heavily armed criminals, Nascimento strongly opposes it, but is forced by his commander to accept it as his last mission.
Meanwhile, Neto and Matias debut as police officers. Both hold high moral grounds and rebuff everyday payoff offers, but are soon disillusioned to realize their superiors are corrupt. While Neto begins working as a supervisor at the police auto mechanic shop, Matias is responsible for registering and filing every police complaint in a small archive office with fellow other officers. Both share a small apartment in Rio and are long-time friends and flatmates.
Parallel to his work as a police officer, Matias attends Law school, where he befriends Roberta (Fernanda de Freitas), Edu (Paulo Viela) and Maria (Fernanda Machado) (whom he later dates), who are all members of a NGO that supports poor children from a local favela. Roberta dates Rodrigues, who helps Maria run the organization and represents a Senator who sponsors the NGO.
The three of them smoke marijuana regularly provided by Edu, who serves as a drug dealer at the university. Edu is supplied and bossed by Baiano (Fábio Lago), a major drug lord, who allows the NGO to operate as long as it doesn't interfere with his business or bring police attention to his area. Due to the NGO's and Maria's connections to the local criminals, Matias keeps his job at the police as a secret from his classmates.
Neto is soon tired of working at the autoshop, but fails to be transferred to another department. During a routine patrol with Captain Fabio (Milhem Cortaz), he learns about corruption schemes adopted by police officers. Looking to raise enough money to fix as many police cars as possible at once, Neto comes up with a plan to steal the bribes Oliveira collects periodically 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 finds out about their involvement and punishes them by demoting both to cooks at the battalion's kitchen. However, Oliveira believes they were just following Fabio's orders, and has him attend a false police report at the Morro da Babilônia during a baile funk. Realizing it's all a plan to execute him, Fabio warns Neto and Matias, who follow him and arrive at the vantage point to protect Fabio (the first scene of the film). When one of the dealers reaches for his gun, Neto precipitately shoots him, starting the gunfight seen earlier. Fabio escapes and Neto and Matias, unexperienced and underarmed, are soon cornered by the thugs.
Meanwhile, Nascimento is confronted by a woman trying to locate the body of her son, who worked as a lookout for the drug lords. She believes her son was killed as a punishment after BOPE managed to storm in the slum and that Nascimento is responsible because he let him go. Feeling guilty and thinking of his upcoming child, Nascimento gathers some officers and searches for the body. During the search, Nascimento is informed of the situation at Babilônia and ordered to intervene.
After rescuing the officers, he meets Matias and Neto and orders them to bring the local lord's body down to the base of the slum, during which Matias is photographed by the press. Soon after, the two friends, along with Fabio, apply for BOPE's training program. Matias is motivated by his devotion to the police, Neto is avid for more action, and Fabio is just trying to avoid Oliveira. Meanwhile, Nascimento's son, Rafael, is born.
At the NGO office, Baiano confronts Maria and her friends with a newspaper featuring Matias's picture and warns them to keep policemen out of his territory. Meanwhile, BOPE's training program takes place over a few weeks in the jungle. The course turns out to be a tough challenge, subjecting its aspiring officers to extreme physical and psychological tests. Many candidates quit the program, including Fabio, but Neto and Matias reach the final level, where they are brought into Nascimento's final operation. To celebrate his approval, Neto gets a BOPE tattoo in his arm.
Back to college, Matias is rejected by Maria and her friends after his exposure as a cop. Later, he confronts Edu and orders him to arrange a meeting with Romerito (a boy he befriended at the NGO), to whom he had promised a new pair of glasses. Aware of the risk he would run if he enters the slum, he demands Edu arrange him a meeting with Romerito at the base of the slum. However, upon returning home, Neto informs Matias that he has been invited for a job interview in a prestigious law firm that will conflict with his meeting with Romerito. Matias is reluctant because he knows it was arranged by Maria when they were still together, but Neto insists he attends it and offers to deliver the glasses to Romerito in Matias' place.
Edu reveals Matia's plan to Baiano and the drug lord decides to kill the cop. Neto ends up ambushed and mortally wounded by Baiano and his men, who then notice Neto's BOPE tattoo and realize he's from BOPE. Horrified that they just killed an elite officer, meaning that BOPE wouldn't rest until they hunted him down for revenge, Baiano goes into hiding, fearing for his life and becomes increasingly paranoid.
Matias, Nascimento and other BOPE officers make daily incursions into Baiano's slum to torture dealers into telling them of his whereabouts. After one of them reveals Edu tipped Baiano, Matias storms in a peace walk, beats Edu up and insults Maria and the others. Later, BOPE finally locate and corner Baiano. Nascimento holds him at gunpoint, but Baiano pleads to not to be shot in the face, saying that it would ruin the funeral. Angrily amused at Baiano's pleading, despite his horrific crimes, Nascimento grabs a shotgun and hands it over to Matias, wanting him to finish Baiano off as both to avenge Neto, and prove himself. As Baiano continues to plead to not be shot in the face, the screen fades to black just as Matias's shot is heard.
- 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 Barbosa - 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 a punishment for bringing a cop into the drug dealer's circle of friends, Rodrigues is necklaced.
- 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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