Elite Squad: The Enemy Within Review – Fine Brazilian Crime Film, A Must Watch

Indian viewers of the superb Brazilian film Elite Squad – The Enemy Within (2010) can take great comfort that there are other countries in the world as screwed up, as corrupt and as rotten as Mera Bharat Mahaan.

Elite Squad – The Enemy Within (Tropa de Elite 2 – O Inimigo Agora é Outro), a Portuguese language film, is a follow-up to The Elite Squad (2007).

But even if you haven’t seen the older film you can still enjoy the sequel without feeling adrift.

The movie, which debuted in late 2010 in Brazil and a year later in the U.S., has been a raging success at the box office.

In Brazil, the box office returns of Elite Squad – The Enemy Within turned it into the country’s highest grossing film ever.

The movie was Brazil’s pick for the upcoming Oscars in the Best Foreign Film category but failed to make the final list.

A Director’s Film

Set in Rio de Janeiro (a sprawling city with a population about that of the South Indian city of Hyderabad), Elite Squad – The Enemy Within is what the wise souls at SI hail as a director’s film.

In other words, the actors recede into the background because of the overall powerful impact of the movie.

A gripping story, fine screenplay, nice photography and good acting are neatly melded together in the capable hands of a talented director.

The director in this instance is José Padilha, who also co-wrote the story and screenplay. Padilha, a maker of feature films and documentaries, also directed Elite Squad (2007).

Most Indian movies are garbage because the Bollywood star system thrusts the ‘heroes’ into the foreground, leaving the story, screenplay and the director to play second fiddle.

Groundbreaking Indian films are those, like Sholay, that stray from the hero-centric formula.

Powerful Indictment

Made on an average budget of about $9.5 million, Elite Squad – The Enemy Within is a crushing indictment of the corruption and savagery sullying the high echelons of Rio’s police force and operating at the intersection of law enforcement and politics.

Not unlike the situation in big Indian cities like Mumbai where the police have turned into a law unto themselves, engaging in fake ‘encounter’ killings, collaborating with criminals and participating in daily looting.

A Resilient System

But instead of focusing on individual acts of bribery, crime, murder and politicking, the Brazilian film throws its high-beam on the system, which, in one scene, the narrator aptly describes as “an aggregation of loathsome interests.”

A prison riot starts with the slaying of some incarcerated drug lords and ends in a human rights nightmare because of the killing of some inmates by the BOPE (a police unit).

To halt the incessant criticism of a human rights advocate Diogo Fraga, the politicians transfer and ‘promote’ Lt. Col. Roberto Nascimento (Wagner Moura) to a desk job with supervision of intelligence gathering and wiretaps monitoring.

Nascimento’s second in command Captain André Matias (André Ramiro) also gets the heave-ho.

Undeterred, in his new assignment Nascimento builds BOPE into a stronger outfit and rids the streets of key drug-lords and peddlers.

Now, if you thought the elimination of the bad guys on Rio’s streets would usher in peaceful times you’d be so wrong.

As the narrator (Nascimento) matter-of-factly intones, “the system is resilient.”

One group of thugs on the streets merely replace the dead and captured.

This time, the thugs are members of Rio’s Military Police.

And with elections round the corner, the politicians are playing their own crooked games in cahoots with the bad cops.

So, what’s Nascimento to do?

Lending a human and emotional dimension to the story is the growing estrangement of Nascimento’s young son who sees his father as a killing machine.

By the way, Nascimento’s ex-wife is now married to the human rights advocate Fraga.

Elite Squad – The Enemy Within – Must Watch Film

The movie is a remarkable portrayal of the immense challenges in reforming corrupt systems where the death of one group of criminals is merely an opportunity for others to fill the vacuum.

A system where law-enforcers and law-breakers often come dressed in the same garb.

A system where the political class is completely indifferent to the loss of countless innocent lives.

A system highly resistant to change.

The acting is solid, the story convincing and the photography decent. Appropriately enough for a film of this genre, the humor is of the dark, biting kind.

Your favorite blog SearchIndia.com strongly recommends Elite Squad – The Enemy Within (Tropa de Elite 2 – O Inimigo Agora é Outro) in the near certainty that you putzheads will never watch it.

Yes, the film is on Netflix Instant Play with excellent English subtitles.

We can’t wait to watch the 2007 movie as well as the coming sequel, the last film in the Elite Squad trilogy.

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