Tropa de Elite 2: The ‘Real’ Enemy

By Sibel Tinar, Senior Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Following months of teasers and speculation, Tropa de Elite 2 (Elite Squad 2), the sequel to the controversial and wildly popular Tropa de Elite finally opened in Brazil on Friday October 8th, attracting record crowds of 1.25 million to theaters on the first weekend making it the fifth biggest opening in Brazil of all time.

Wagner Moura reprises his role as Captain Nascimento in Tropa de Elite 2, photo courtesy of Rio Filmes.

José Padilha, the director of the first film and the provocative documentary Ônibus 174 (Bus 174) is not a filmmaker to shy away from tackling social and political taboos and by adopting a multi-perspective approach it allows a multitude of characters to freely express their opinions, fears, and even hatred, without the director worrying about exerting his own personal views.

Tropa de Elite was a harsh and unforgiving story of loss of innocence that approached the issue of drug trafficking and violence that dominates the favelas of Rio de Janeiro from the perspective of main character Captain Nascimento (Wagner Moura) of BOPE, the ‘elite squad’ of the city’s police whose logo of a skull penetrated by two guns and a knife speaks volumes.

Seu Jorge, musican and actor of films such as Cidade de Deus, makes a brief but memorable appearance in the movie, photo courtesy of Rio Filmes.

The biggest challenge of the sequel is the fact that Tropa de Elite was a complete film that wrapped up its story with no loose ends. The film did not obviously call for a sequel, so don’t expect a continuation from where that left off. Indeed, Tropa de Elite 2 has chosen to distance itself as much as possible from the first movie, pushing the storyline thirteen years forward and adopting a different theme, yet keeping its arresting narrative and visual style intact.

Despite bursts of narrative brilliance and unfaltering technical prowess, Tropa 2 takes on too much at once, abandoning the first movie’s personal focus and setting its sights on the elusive ‘system’. A concept as general as the ‘system’, in film making can either materialize as two-dimensional, puppet characters, or as prosaic and expository dialogue. Tropa 2 manages to do both.

The evolution of the subject matter and the characters is natural and realistic, but it inevitably leads to the iron doors of a vaguely defined ‘system’, whose watchdogs are corrupt bureaucrats and politicians. The demonizing and even ridiculing of these key figures lead the otherwise powerful film to fall flat at times; but it is the eventual focus on Nascimento and his disillusionment with everything he used to believe in and fight for, that makes the movie a coherent piece of work with both purpose and heart.

André Ramiro, whose character André Mathias' transformation was pivotal for the first movie, also returns for the sequel, photo courtesy of Rio Filmes.

Despite its shortcomings, Tropa de Elite 2 is one more step in Carioca director José Padilha’s career that will establish him as the brave, opinionated, yet open-minded filmmaker, who at his core is still a curious documentary maker, trying to understand and make sense of the atrocities, with a knack for captivating the audience and commercial success.

In the meanwhile, with no word yet on its foreign or DVD release dates, the decision whether or not to see the movie in the theaters will not be an easy one for non-native Portuguese speakers living in Brazil. It is of course a must-see for any cinephile on the pulse of Brazilian cinema, and its visual language is strong enough to allow most to follow the main plot.

However, the strong focus on the evils of the system and its inner workings means many details are dependent on voice-over and dialogue, requiring a fair understanding of Portuguese, and as with its first incarnation, the heavy use of Carioca slang means that, undoubtedly, a lot of context may pass by those less accomplished in the language.

15 Responses to "Tropa de Elite 2: The ‘Real’ Enemy"

  1. Gislailson  October 15, 2010 at 9:00 AM

    Deve ser bom esse filme :D

  2. Edward Prendergast  October 17, 2010 at 7:32 PM

    No need to see the movie… watch the nightly news or open your eyes as you drive around this horrendous city.
    It should be obvious to all, especially after this years elections, that it is a city run by the trafficants with no real desire on behalf of the population to change anything.
    Its incredible to hear Brazilians say they are “shocked” by this movie.

  3. Gislailson  October 18, 2010 at 8:42 AM

    /\ I am Brazilian and I agree with part of what you said, people will want to change that reality, but authorities did not virtually nothing to change this sad reality.

  4. Carlos R B  October 18, 2010 at 7:55 PM

    “The demonizing and even ridiculing of these key figures” is an obviously bad writen comment. If you knew half of what happened in Rio, you wouldnt be naive to do such statement. Many of the facts on the movie actually happened.(wont spoil those who didnt watched)….

  5. Sibel Tinar  October 19, 2010 at 11:16 PM

    Carlos, my comment was specifically targeted to the narrative structure of the movie, not to its connection to reality. From a cinematic point of view the movie does a good job fleshing out its main characters, but the secondary characters, mainly the antagonists remain two-dimensional. By criticizing this I’m not questioning the validity of the atrocities portrayed, it is clear that many things are based on facts. But a film with such a big potential should not solely be relying on the real world to create an impact, it should also build a strong narrative within, in my opinion…

  6. Giuliano  October 29, 2010 at 7:14 AM

    Carlos R B you are right, these “key figures”, like said Sibel, it’s even worst in real real “Rio” life. It’s a amazing movie narrative, a must see.

  7. moerbeck  November 6, 2010 at 5:36 PM

    any movie that can masterfully intertwine the original story with a far more complex struggle between the upper dominant class and the favela deserves 5 stars. the critic is completely wrong is his assertion that the ridicule of politicians falls flats. as a matter of fact, nascimento’s interactions with the same leaders is what makes the movie so riveting. the fact he has defended their ideals and their “system” proves a much more important point and shifts the focus away from the favela to the executive office.

    something else that’s crucial here is the moviemaker’s intention to partially blame society for its own plague. the movie constantly argues that if there were no customers there would be no drug trafficking in the city. in rio drugs are a destination not a means to other markets like mexico and central america. both movies are brilliant and i cannot wait for the third one.

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  11. Carioca  March 17, 2011 at 10:47 PM

    Mr Prenbdergast,

    Although many of the things shown in the movie are real. The reality is not black and white. The city is not ruled by the drug dealers, in spite of some gangsters connections to some authorities.
    Well, even if what you said was true, it wouldnt change the fact that this is a very good film. I compare this to Scorses or Coppola movies. I You probably prefer Steven Segal type of stories.
    By the way, I dont know where you come from, but Rio is beautiful, is cool and rules.
    I dont wanna be unfair to anyone, but you’re probably from a small lost and square village in US countryside.

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