Elite Squad : The Enemy Within

“The Brazilian Godfather” is coming to town. Elite Squad 2 (Tropa de Elite 2), the most successful film in Brazilian cinema history (more than 1.25 million spectators went to see the film during its first weekend), has been retitled Elite Squad: The Enemy Within and will hit UK cinemas on August 12th.

The film’s subtitle “The Enemy Within” nicely predicts what comes next. Now, it’s not such an easy task to define who are the bad and the good guys, although the same dilemma persists in a corruption context. Elite Squad 2 takes place 13 years after the events of the first film, and José Padilha, the film’s director, made a smart choice approaching a recent subject: the Brazilian mafia (milícias) organised by the police that have been assuming the command of the “favelas” at Rio de Janeiro.

The first maximum-security prison in Rio de Janeiro, Bangu I, is the stage for the opening of Elite Squad: The Enemy Within. A prison riot commanded by a drug dealer, played by Seu Jorge (currently Brazil’s most popular artist abroad), is the doorway for the story’s development involving the characters Fraga, Mathias and Capitão Nascimento.

Fraga is a university professor and a defender of Human Rights, Mathias is one officer from BOPE – Special Operations Battalion, and Capitão Nascimento, the protagonist. After an unsuccessful end for the rebellion, Nascimento is fired, but in virtue of his admiration by the people, he is nominated to a role inside the State Public Security Department. In the middle of all this, Fraga marries Nascimento’s ex-wife. Herein is born a very complicated love triangle: beliefs, values and a child (Nascimento’s son).

If the first Elite Squad – awarded with the Golden Bear in Berlin – transferred, in a certain way, the violence resultant from the drug trade, without showing easy conclusions and following an European filming style, Elite Squad: The Enemy Within has as one of its aims to show a bigger picture involving violence, drug traffic and the society within the favelas, presenting this world in a “Hollywood” way, with less space for interpretation and conclusions.

The plot of the first Elite Squad was about the officer Mathias, and the second film is about Capitão Nascimento. The character is, nowadays, a type of an urban legend in Brazil, a grey protagonist that symbolises simultaneously the position of hero and anti-hero – loved by the population and hated by Human Rights defenders. Nascimento makes justice with his own hands although he doesn’t know why. He is not the redeemer; he is just the prophet of this announced tragedy. Above all, it’s all about protection and hope in a better future.

For some people, Capitão Nascimento is the “Brazilian Godfather”. Some people say that José Padilha’s films are fascist or even reactionary. They’ll also say that the film is too didactic. Some of them will say that it is reality disguised as fiction. But what is in everyone’s minds is that the Elite Squad films really do show a portrait of current society.

by Bruna Gala

Elite Squad: The Enemy Within is in UK cinemas from August 12th.



  1. Soraya

    Great movie. What a coincidence it’s been launched in the UK with this title right now…

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