Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The (in)effectiveness of action


                "Despite possible coincidences with the reality, this movie is a work of fiction." This is a disclaimer at the beginning of "Tropa de Elite 2 - O Inimigo Agora É Outro" ("Elite Squad: The Enemy Within"), a sequel to the fantastic "Tropa de Elite". It also constitutes the first difference between the movies. While most of the crew stayed the same, including director Padilha, screenwriter Mantovani and former BOPE member Pimentel, they didn't film real life inspired events like in the first movie. Although, one can easily assume what the sequel depicts isn't far from the reality. The other difference is that in "Tropa de Elite 2" the focus moves from the BOPE unit to the politics.

                Roberto Nascimento returns as a narrator of the story, which is this time more centered on him, only now he has a different rank. He became Lt. Colonel and got in charge of whole of BOPE. But that doesn't last for long. Soon he's made Deputy Secretary of Intelligence in the state of Rio de Janeiro and changes BOPE uniform for a suit and tie. Nascimento decides to use his new position to make BOPE stronger and eradicate drug trafficking from the favelas. It takes him some time to realize it isn't him who's using the system but the other way around. Several other characters reappear, such as André Matias who became a Captain, Fábio, a dirty police Captain who got to the position of Lt. Colonel, or Rocha, another dirty cop who's taken over favelas. There are also some new characters representing the world of politics such as Governor of the state Gelino, Secretary of Intelligence Guaracy and Diogo Fraga, left-oriented State Representative who's married to Nascimento's ex-wife. The problem is that this time all of the characters are simplified. Each one has its views and no one revisits them except Nascimento. That's why he's such a great character. Going through different situations he learns and evolves, and he's ready to change his opinions in light of new information.

                Moving the focus of the story to politics, the movie got more diverse but also lost its punch. While Padilha combines various office meetings and street murders the best he can, the combination of the two just can't repeat the impact of the first movie. What doesn't help is that he already showed us the police is corrupt, and corruption of the politicians is a thing, I believe, well known amongst the people all over the world because it's present in probably every country. Maybe it's not as extreme as shown here, but it doesn't surprise to see some of them are willing to go one step further.

                So the movie shows us things we already know, but does it in a very good way. Most of the elements like Padilha's direction, Lula Carvalho's cinematography, Daniel Rezende's editing, and especially the acting by Wagner Moura, Irandhir Santos, Sandro Rocha and others, are as good as in the previous film. One thing that I found a little underwhelming is screenplay. Not that it's bad, but some of the characters seem inconsistent and everything is a bit over-explained.

                That is also the main problem of this movie. Everything that was subtextual in the first one is now explicitly shown, and, while in the first one you had to think and make your own conclusions, here it's mostly done for you. "Tropa de Elite 2" plays on emotions more than reason and does it skillfully. It just doesn't benefit from its detailed account as much as the first one did from its rawness.

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