Classic Intel: Elite Squad - Blu-ray Review

'firmly a police film where character archetypes take over from character development'

Elite Squad has a good reputation and a good pedigree, currently holding an 8/10 IMDb average and a writing credit from City Of God screenwriter Bráulio Mantovani respectively. This seems a tad odd because, despite some ambitious structural work and a compelling lead, there's little here to love about José Padilha's film above and beyond that which can normally be found in most Cop Thrillers.

The tangled narrative weaves around Wagner Moura's Nascimento who, with a new kid on the way, wants out of a dangerous profession. So far so standard, as is the rest of the plot, when you really boil it down to its individual particulars; Nascimento wants out but he's an honest cop with an honest assignment (clear out the slums ahead of a visit by the Pope) and he needs to find a replacement.

Step forward potential replacements Neto (Caio Junqueira) and Matias (André Ramiro). Again, the development here is bog standard and artificially manufactured. Are Neto and Matias both high quality candidates that can only be separated by a matchstick's worth of difference? No, of course not, they're complete opposites; Neto hot-headed and ambitious, Matias educated and optimistic. We're firmly in a police film where character archetypes take over from character development.

The exception to this is Nascimento himself. Moura plays the Captain perfectly; he's our narrator but he's unreliable, he's brave but he's visibly nervous, he's tough but he wants to do good by his wife. He's a complex character with a huge wealth of competing emotions and a great desire to see everyone good succeed and everyone bad punished, but he's also cracking at the seams, desperate to exit a brutal game of political posturing.

And this is where the weight of Elite Squad's characterisations finally falls in on itself; Nascimento is of course one part Neto, one part Matias. He is the cop the Elite Squad need but can't have. He is the obvious central message the film can't quite afford.

Beyond Moura then, there's some nice camera-work, the occasional nice-looking piece of action and an ultimately fairly pleasant end to the tale. Also though, there are the problems that blight many a Cop Thriller; one-dimensional characters, good vs bad played out ad nauseum and, in this case at least, a vast over-reliance on story-through-narration. Fine, but problem-riddled.

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