Elite Squad (Portuguese: Tropa de Elite, pronounced:Â [ËtÉ¾É"pÉ dÊ'i eËlitÊi] lit. "Elite Troop") is a 2007 Brazilian crime film directed by JosÃ© Padilha. The film is a semi-fictional account of the BatalhÃ£o de OperaÃ§Ãµes Policiais Especiais (BOPE), the Special Police Operations Squad 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 BrÃ¡ulio Mantovani and Padilha, based on the book Elite da Tropa by sociologist Luiz Eduardo Soares and two former BOPE captains, AndrÃ© 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 BabilÃ´nia towards a baile funk. Nascimento and his other colleagues are also shown in their armored car. Meanwhile, novice police officers AndrÃ© Matias (AndrÃ© 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 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 a 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 (FÃ¡bio Lago), the local drug lord, 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 â" 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 BabilÃ´nia, 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 kills the dealer but provokes 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 claiming the body of her son, who was killed by drug lords after being forced to confess by Nascimento, who was then released knowingly of the danger. Feeling guilty and thinking of his upcoming child, Nascimento gathers some officers and goes after the body. Just as they are torturing a member of the boy's gang into telling them where they have left him, Nascimento is informed of the situation at BabilÃ´nia and ordered to interfere. After rescuing the trapped officers at BabilÃ´nia, Nascimento meets Matias and Neto and orders them to start loading up bodies, and they are photographed by the press in the process lifting the body of a local drug lord. They also learn that BOPE's training program is about to begin and they soon apply for it. Both decide to give it a try and Fabio joins them to escape from Oliveira. Meanwhile, Rafael, Nascimento's son, is born.
Just when the NGO program is about to start, Maria and her friends are confronted by Baiano, who found out about Matias's job as an officer after seeing his picture at a newspaper carrying the body of the drug lord - whom he reveals to have been his friend and a partner from another neighborhood with whom has been dealing drugs. Baiano threatens them to get rid of Matias and then leaves.
Meanwhile, BOPE's training program takes place over the course of a few weeks in the jungles of Brazil, and proves a tough challenge and all enrolled officers are subjected to severe physical and psychological punishments and are trained under extreme pressure "in order to eliminate the weak and, mainly, punish the corrupt", as Nascimento explains, as the goal is to eliminate all the corrupt and mentally weak officers and only keep 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.
Matias, now rejected by Maria and her friends, confronts Edu and orders him to arrange a meeting with Romerito, a boy with eyesight problems he met at the NGO and is now willing to provide him with a pair of glasses. Because Matias is aware that he will be killed once inside the slum, he blackmails Edu into arranging the meeting at the base of the slum. However, Neto informs Matias that he arranged a job interview for the same day and hour and offers to go in his place to bring Romerito the glasses.
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 taken down 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 necklaces Rodrigues, as a punishment for bringing a BOPE officer in his slum. He then goes into hiding in a Rio favela. Neto dies in the hospital soon after.
Seeking revenge, Matias, Nascimento and their fellow BOPE officers start making daily incursions into Baiano's slum to torture criminals 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. Finally, the 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 leg. Nascimento holds him at gunpoint, but Baiano pleads to the captain not to shoot him in the face, in order to perserve 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 BOPE squad, who is awaiting for a promotion to Lieutenant Colonel and is seeking a successor to his current position so he can spend more time with his wife and is less likely to die and leave her without support.
- Caio Junqueira as Aspirant Neto Gouveia. He is a rookie officer who joined the police, and is Matias's best friend. Nascimento describes him to be very much like him 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 took over Nascimento's spot.
- AndrÃ© Ramiro as Aspirant AndrÃ© Matias. He is a rookie officer who joined the police. He is a law student, who wants to specialize in criminal law, and is attending university. He is a tactician and resourceful, and he later joined BOPE and gave up from law school.
- Maria Ribeiro as Rosane Nascimento. She is Nascimento's wife, expecting a child with Nascimento. She is very upset about Nascimento's frequent absence from home, wishing him to spend more time with her and their unborn son.
- Milhem Cortaz as CapitÃ£o FÃ¡bio. He is one of the captains where Matias and Neto work, and they later befriend him. He is running a protection racket scheme and was a former pimp in Copacabana, offering protection to bookies. He is at odds with Oliveira since he is taking over his territory.
- Fernanda Machado as Maria. She is a law student who has started the NGO, and 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 in fear of Baiano's retribution. She later helps him to locate Baiano, but he abandons her.
- AndrÃ© Di Mauro Pedro Rodrigues who worked in the favela's NGO and dating the character Roberta. At the end is killed by a drug dealer. Rodrigues is burned inside the tires.
- Paulo Vilela as Edu. Nicknamed "playboy", he is the main university drug seller and is close to Baiano, although he is afraid of him. He despises Matias for his defense of police officers.
- FÃ¡bio 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 CapitÃ£o Oliveira. He is Fabio's rival in the police force, taking over his territory for protection rackets.
- 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 (BatalhÃ£o de OperaÃ§Ãµes Policiais Especiais - Rio de Janeiro military police squads for special actions), AndrÃ© 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 SÃ£o 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 SÃ£o 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. Up to now 2.5 million people have seen it at the theaters. In Rio and SÃ£o 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 Ãpoca. 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.
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".
On February 16, 2008, Elite Squad won the Best Movie award of the Berlin International Film Festival, the Golden Bear.
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 Ã© Teu" - Pedro Bromfman
- "Brilhar a Minha Estrela" - Sangue da Cidade
- "KÃ¡tia FlÃ¡via, a Godiva do IrajÃ¡" - Fausto Fawcett
- "Teatro de Bonecos" - Guilherme Flarys, Pedro Guedes
- "PolÃcia" - TitÃ£s
- "InvasÃ£o do BOPE" - Pedro Bromfman
- "Lado B Lado A" - O Rappa
- "Andando Pela Ãfrica" - Barbatuques
- "Nossa Bandeira" - Bateria da Rocinha, MC Leonard
- "Rap das Armas [Funk]" - MC Leonard
A sequel, named Tropa de Elite 2: O Inimigo Agora Ã Outro, was released in Brazil on October 8, 2010, and on the U.S. on November 11, 2011.
- BatalhÃ£o de OperaÃ§Ãµes Policiais Especiais
- Bus 174
- City of God
- Official website (Portuguese)
- Elite Squad at the Internet Movie Database
- Elite Squad at Rotten Tomatoes
- Official trailer with English subtitles