I finally got around to watching Tropa de Elite (Elite Squad), a very popular movie here about the BOPE, the special forces who infiltrate the drug underworld of the favelas. It is pretty gripping, as violent as you would expect, and as it was based on a book by an ex-member of the BOPE, I am assured it contains fairly realistic attention to detail.
Then I went on Rotten Tomatoes and read a litany of criticism of the movie. Chief among the gripes is the notion that it “doesn’t know where its morals lie.” Because directors owe it to us to give the people a lesson in morals, obviously.
Most of the complaints focus on the suggestion that the the director is trying to tell us brute force is the only solution to the drug trade and violence that comes with it.
I find this attitude depressingly endemic. If a film depicts the attitude of a character, that is taken to represent the attitude of the film itself, and there is some sort of assumption that films should tell us what to think. In extreme situations some people will offer extreme solutions, and showing that (especially in a compelling movie like Tropa de Elite) is important. Not that movies owe it to us to do anything morally worthwhile at all if that’s not what the director wants to do. People will have to use their brains and make their own moral decisions. Spoonfeeding people creates a nation of idiots. Maybe it would be better if the world wasn’t the way it was, but putting your head in the sand isn’t going to change anything so I for one would rather engage with the bloody truth.
I would urge anyone to see the film, and I will be going to see the sequel when it comes out (here in October, not sure when for the UK and elsewhere). Apart from a dreadful REM song the soundtrack of the last one is pretty good too.