JungleGuide: Elite Squad 2

Elite Squad 2 – known as Tropa de Elite 2: O Inimigo Agora é Outro in Brazil and titled Elite Squad: The Enemy Within for the UK is the all-time largest box office ticket seller and highest-grossing film in Brazil, ahead of Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands and Avatar, respectively.

The film was released in Brazil in 2010 and the UK on August 12th 2011. It was directed and produced by José Padilha and stars Wagner Moura. Here’s how Bruna Gala described the film in her review for JungleDrums:

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.

The reason for his focus on Captain Nascimento is explained by Rafaela Miranda Rocha in her analysis of the film:

For co-writer Braulio Mantovani (Elite Squad, City of God), the choice to put Nascimento under the spotlight from the start is the reason for the film’s success. In an interview for Brazilian magazine VEJA, he stated that it was Moura’s superb acting that turned Captain Nascimento, originally a peripheral character in the screenplay, into the star of the 1st film. “I consider Elite Squad 2 to be much better than the first film because we learned from our mistakes” he said.

Wagner Moura, who played Captain Nascimento, spoke to Sofia Serbin de Skalon and had this to say about his reason for doing the film:

What really made me able to do the film was all the political stuff in the film. José Padilha is a political film-maker. I’m not saying that politics and art should always go together, but when it happens like with José is a very strong calling for me. He is a political artist; he is interested in what is happening in his country. That’s why the film was such a huge hit in Brazil, people felt connected to it.

José Padilha who came to prominence after 2002’s Bus 174 has firmly etched himself as one of the world’s most exciting film-makers through the Elite Squad series. He has recently been announced as the director of a new Robocop film, surely a chance for him to establish himself as a major player in the US.

In an interview with JungleDrums, Padilha spoke of his motivations for making the films:

The film isn’t a satire; it was a critique. The film is a harsh criticism of the actions of the authorities in Brazil, it continues what I started in Bus 174. Here we told the story of a violent criminal from his point of view. We showed how the State took a street kid, tortured him, put him in institutions that weren’t schools (they were concentration camps), put him in overcrowded prisons… the film shows how the State transformed a petty thief into a major criminal. Bus 174 poses the following question: “how are the powers that be responsible for the actions of this criminal?” Elite Squad is exactly the same thing, but seen from the other side of the law.

Ana Paula Souza looked further into the impact of the first Elite Squad for JungleDrums and reinforced the sentiments from Padilha’s last statement:

Padilha, Wagner Moura and producer Marcos Prado have reiterated in a mantra-like fashion that the film doesn’t reflect their opinions of the police nor of the role that drug users play in sustaining trafficking – another controversial aspect of the film. “This is the opinion of a BOPE officer. I spoke to a lot of policemen and I only reproduced what I heard”, insists Padilha. “If I put a thermometer in your mouth and you’ve got a fever, is it the thermometer’s fault?”. “The film is hyper-realistic, packaged almost like a documentary but, at the same time, it’s a typical contemporary action film. It ends up transforming the police officer, who starts off in crisis into a Rambo-type figure”, says lecturer Ivana Bentes. “In Elite Squad the viewer is held hostage by the captain’s ultra-conservative discourse”, she explains.

Elite Squad: The Enemy Within is currently in cinemas in the UK. For a full list of cinemas screening the film click here.

One Comment

  1. I saw the first one but not the second and after the review couldn’t be more interested in watching it. It is indeed a portarait of an existing reality, that we all hope to change in the future. Nevertheless, many questions are always left open…I believe it will require some thought to digest part two!

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