Elite Squad: The Enemy Within (Tropa de Elite 2 - O Inimigo Agora É Outro)
Tropa de Elite or Elite Squad (Filmstalker review) was a film that combined hard, realistically portrayed violence with the problems the people faced with the drug gangs in the Favelas of Rio. Entertainment and fact brought together to deliver a message to the country and the rest of the world.
Elite Squad: The Enemy Within looks further than this first film did with the main character becoming so successful in combating the drug gangs that they've been driven from the Favelas leaving something of a power vacuum, while he's promoted to the halls of power, away from the front line and to what could be seen as the real enemy.
He's been promoted to look after the security of the city, including all wiretaps and surveillance, but really he's been moved to where those who want to exploit the newly freed Favelas feel they can keep him under control and away from the front line events, lessening the threat of BOPE.
Meanwhile since the first film, his marriage has fallen apart and his wife remarried to an anti-government liberalist who is turning his son against him and is fighting everything BOPE and the government have achieved.
Nascomento has thrown himself into his work as the corrupt politicians and militias take over the gap left by the drug gangs to exploit the people once again, this time managing to get some control around their major threat, BOPE.
There's quite a change with this second film, and while you can call it a sequel as it follows the same characters and overall storylines, there's a clear move from the action element to a grand political thriller. It is unfair to label either first film as action only, but it's especially unfair to use the word action with the sequel as there's a thick core of thriller and political commentary, as indeed there is with the original. Now though the leading character has put down his gun and joined the ranks of the politicians with the hopes of changing the system from the inside, and our action is really about those who control the men with the guns.
I did find though that the sequel wasn't as exciting and thrilling as the first film, but then this film is more about the broader political issues rather than concentrating on the Elite Squad, their leader, and the tactics of fighting the drug gangs on the streets. I did hope that these elements would remain and be more prominent in the thriller side of this film, but I didn't feel them as strongly this time around.
There is still the appearance of BOPE and their work with and against the militias in the Favelas but the scope has increased dramatically and looks to how the politicians are using the poor, the drug gangs and the militias to control the fear, make money, and keep themselves in power. It's about the corruption and perversion of politics, and about how easy it is for good people with positive ideas to have them swamped and lost in the halls of power, about those who are really behind the criminality and who are trying to control it.
Now while you might think that this sounds like it's all a little too dry and boring, think again, for the comparisons have been made between this film and the Godfather series, and while the films are far apart in terms of stature, the direction and intent of both are very similar.
Elite Squad: The Enemy Within has a lot more ground to cover, and a lot more characters to follow. While there are various key characters and roles that need to be followed through the political side of the story the film also keeps a strong focus on the human element with Nascimento trying to find some common ground with his son while he struggles with his ex-wife and her new man, a man who has the opposite beliefs to him and is trying to bring him down as being part of the corrupt regime.
You can see there's a lot to try and fit into the film, and I think that is perhaps one reason why it isn't as strong as the first. Mind you don't take that as a reason not to see the film; it is a negative but a slight one. Yes there's a lot to the film and it tries to pack in a great deal, the themes are grander and have more depth, demanding more exploration, and there's a much more complex story, but the film does manage to deliver, although without the same impact as the original.
The film moves fast and efficiently, pulling in as much of the story and covering as much of the broader scope as it can. It's a complex and well written script that pulls and weaves together these multiple story lines bringing out the characters and their stories as much as the bigger scale core of politics and corruption. I don't think it's too much to say that the script is rather masterfully written. The filming style helps keep the pace of the film moving forward and adds another layer of tension which is kept high throughout.
A lot of the strength in the film is how it moves from the bigger political threads to the smaller, character driven threads and successfully delivers both levels of the film without the detriment of the other. I found some of the stronger aspects of the film in these more character driven threads, for the powerful story presents interesting dynamics for the lead character and his relationships with others, particularly with Mathias who in many ways becomes his nemesis.
To match the powerful script and story we get equally powerful and intense performances, once again Wagner Moura provides an excellent performance that draws you straight into the character and his story, and he's matched by equally strong performances from the rest of the key cast around him.
The cinematography is, as you would expect from José Padilha and Lula Carvalho, very strong and the picture looks great throughout the film from scenes of close quarter, hand-held, racing through the narrow Favela streets to wide vistas of the cityscapes of Rio and from day to night.
Dolby Digital 5.1, Stereo
There's good use made of the speakers in the 5.1 audio track offered with plenty of life from the rear and movement around the room. The speakers add a depth and bring to life a lot of the scenes and not just the action orientated ones either.
Making Of Featurette
While the thought of the standard trailers and a Making Of Featurette don't sound hugely exciting I have to tell you that the featurette is rather surprising as it runs for around an hour, interviews all the major cast members as well as spending a fair amount of time with José Padilha himself. Not only that but we are treated to some rather in depth looks at some key sequences from the film itself, going into detail we're just not used to in any mainstream DVD releases. One of the best Making Of Featurettes I've seen in a very, very long time.
A powerful film that gives a lot more to the first, and while it doesn't match it in visceral action and shocking storylines, it does something else, broadening and deepening the story and the audience's understanding of the events, moving the film from an action film to something more, a political thriller akin to some of the best political and organised crime films around. It does this without losing sight of the characters and their stories, and while it has to push forward a lot of the time in order to get everything shown and said, it does manage to do this well.
Powerful and emotive story and performances that build the events to the strong closing scenes that provide an emotional release and a realisation for the audience, as well as a chance to reflect on what all this means for the characters and the people of Rio.
This has become the most popular film inside of Brazil, even beating Avatar (Filmstalker review), and that's little surprise. What is so surprising is that both the original and this film have managed to do so well outside of Brazil and manage to connect to the audience on all these issues, a sign of the excellent script, performances and direction. Once again José Padilha has shown what he's capable of behind both the keyboard and camera and I hope there's much more to come.