Elite Squad: The Enemy Within

Elite Squad: The Enemy Within

A scene from ELITE SQUAD: THE ENEMY WITHIN, a film directed by Jose Padilha. Picture courtesy Variance Films / Flatiron Films. All rights reserved.

Elite Squad: The Enemy Within (2010/2011)

Also Known As: Elite Squad 2, Tropa de Elite 2: O Inimigo Agora e Outro

Opened: 11/11/2011 Limited

AMC Empire 2511/11/2011 - 12/01/201121 days
Sunset 5/LA11/18/2011 - 12/01/201114 days
Laemmle's Play...11/18/2011 - 12/01/201114 days

Trailer: Click for trailer

Genre: Brazilian Crime Drama (Portuguese w/English subtitles)

Rated: Unrated (suitable for 15 and up, contains strong violence and language.)


The sprawling slum that towers over Rio de Janeiro is one of the most dangerous places on Earth, and as the head of Rio's BOPE (Special Police Operations Battalion), Captain Nascimento (Wagner Moura) has seen his share of intense situations. When a BOPE mission to stop a jail riot ends in violence, Nascimento finds his job on the line--and BOPE accused of a massacre by human rights activists. But a public fed up with the violence and gangs that plague Rio loves it, and Nascimento finds himself embraced as a hero who gets results. With elections around the corner, he's promoted to Sub-Secretary of Intelligence.

In his powerful new post, Nascimento strengthens BOPE and brings the drug gangs that run the slum to their knees-- only to come to the sobering realization that by doing so, he's only made things easier for the corrupt cops and dirty politicians who are truly running the game. After years in the trenches, Nascimento now finds that his new enemies are much more dangerous and, even worse, sitting at desks just down the hall.

Since its release earlier this year, ELITE SQUAD: THE ENEMY WITHIN has become the most popular film of all time in South America (out-grossing even AVATAR). Not a sequel to the original ELITE SQUAD so much as a reinvention, this stunning, intense action/drama is a perfect amalgamation of the best parts of THE DEPARTED, CITY OF GOD, and THE WIRE.

Director's Statement

Having come from the documentary world, both Marcos (producer Prado) and I like to bring as much realism to the screen as possible. That said, working on the narrative side brought about luxuries we never enjoyed before. A special effects team, with heavyweight names such as Bruno Van Zeebroeck (TRANSFORMERS) William Boggs (SPIDERMAN) and Keith Woulard (THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON, INDEPENDENCE DAY and FORREST GUMP) were imported to the set of our movie to offer big-screen realism to the film's look, feel and vibe, and to make the action sequences as thrilling and intense as possible.

The Bangu 1 penitentiary was rebuilt in great detail in a 1,000 square-meter studio. Master make-up artist Martin Trujillo crafted charred bodies. Cameras were hung from ropes for greater closeness to the action, adding a new dimension to Lula Carvalho's already striking cinematography. An entire floor of a building in downtown Rio was transformed into the headquarters of the State's Public Security Office, and intense research - headed by consultants Rodrigo Pimentel, state representative Marcelo Freixo and the police precinct captained by police-chief Claudio Ferraz - was conducted for almost two years before the screenplay by Braulio Mantovani and myself could even take shape.

We then financed the film using a groundbreaking option to sell shares of the project directly to private investors, and executed a totally independent distribution and self-release of the film, without intermediaries (and with the backing of Globo Filmes). Our hope was that ELITE SQUAD: THE ENEMY WITHIN would perhaps herald a new way to produce and distribute cinema in Brazil- and across the world.

When I directed the first ELITE SQUAD a few years ago, most people knew me as the director of the 2002 documentary, BUS 174. Much to my great surprise, the film was a box office smash despite the fact that over 11 million of my countrymen had watched the film on bootleg videos before it even reached a single theater.

In a way, BUS 174 and ELITE SQUAD have the same premise, in that they both try to show how the State contributes to urban violence by mismanaging institutions that should curb it--including the prison system, reformatories for petty criminals, and the several police departments.

ES: TEW builds on this same theme, but this time, from a point much closer to the decision and policymakers. In this film, I didn't try to simply produce pure entertainment, but to approach a theme that is dear to me without turning away from the plot, taking the spectators' eyes off the action, or pausing for reflection. I tried to make a movie that doesn't make moral inferences for the spectator, that doesn't tell him what to think and when to think, and that doesn't contain deliberately constructed pauses to do so. I tried to make a movie that fights urban violence through its dramaturgy, and not with metaphors or intellectualized statements. I don't believe this is necessarily the best kind of cinema, or the only cinema possible. I just think it is appropriate to the screenplay we wrote, for which our objective was to generate restlessness among the audience, to provide it with an experience that turns into reflection after the movie and not just during its projection.

-- Jose Padilha

Producer's Statement

The checklist was daunting to say the least: Recreate the Bangu 1 penitentiary in a studio, occupy the entire floor of an important building in downtown Rio and transform it into a location, shoot in four different favelas, the State Assembly and BOPE headquarters, perform daring aerial takes, manage 300 extras and a crew of 180 people, cater to the demands of a top team of imported special effects artists, and command a regular movie set. These were just a few of the elements that made ELITE SQUAD: THE ENEMY WITHIN the most ambitious project I've ever tackled.

ES: TEW was shot in 12 weeks, between January and April 2010. Thanks to good planning, everything went well. But we were blessed, too. We had several consecutive days of good weather, which was quite helpful as there were several outdoor locations and gigantic events that required continuity. Our timing was fortunate as, towards the end of the shoot, there were several torrential rainstorms that flooded Rio. Had they occurred at the beginning, we would have gone broke. The foreign special effects team arrived three months earlier and spent a month and a half shooting. If we'd been forced to interrupt shooting then, it would have been very difficult to cover the costs due to their high fees (and no, they don't do refunds).

For me, the greatest challenge in producing ES: TEW in the wake of the box-office and critical success of its prequel was not to think only in commercial terms. A Brazilian TV network had optioned an ELITE SQUAD miniseries, but we felt there was still a lot of content to be explored. We postponed the miniseries and opted for another movie. Another challenge was to plan the movie, both financially and mathematically so that we ourselves could distribute it. Aside from losing Article 3 (an incentive for major studios to join a project with distribution rights), we needed to handle all the release costs. We opened small private quotas and invested heavily to be able to own a greater percentage of the rights to the movie.

This strategy turned ES: TEW into a kind of laboratory for a new way of making cinema in Brazil. The initiative brings to mind Carla Camurati who, by choosing to distribute her own movie, CARLOTA JOAQUINA, in 1995--at the height of the collapse of the cultural support structures in the country--was able to draw 1.2 million people to the theater. She was our muse.

As the most independent Brazilian movie in recent years, we were able to leverage the participation of exhibitors, distributors, cinema professionals and individuals who "envisioned a market and a way to support a work of art." Because of the immense support, and the problems with piracy on the first film (a copy was leaked by the subtitling studio, resulting in 11 million downloads before the film had even hit theaters), we undertook great pains to guard against piracy in order to ensure that ES: TEW would reach the market at the height of audience anticipation.

In comparing the production efforts of both films it's interesting to see the expanded scope in the second film. In ELITE SQUAD, we had a "funk ball" with 800 people recruited off the streets as our biggest scene. This time, we had real policemen from all over the place taking part in ES: TEW as extras, including one who came all the way from Portugal, two from Mato Grosso, and one from Roraima. It was great, because they were already trained. This proves there's a calling, that there are serious people in the police force. A recent survey shows that "just" 40% of the police are corrupt. To rest of them, the movie is a reference. They knew how to work in formation and they handled the shooting of the occupation of Dona Marta in just one day. It was all very organized and quick.

Jose and I come from the documentary school. I made my debut in cinema producing THE CHARCOAL PEOPLE for Englishman Nigel Noble. In 2002, I began my partnership with Jose as producer for BUS 174 and, in 2003, I directed, alongside my partner at Zazen Producões, BRAZIL'S VANISHING COWBOY for U.S. television. SECRETS OF THE TRIBE (2009) was our last project prior to this. To seek reality in fiction is one of our prime goals. We like to have time to deepen our knowledge and eek out the events involved and to have consultants as part of the process.

Marcelo Freixo (state representative, president of the Rio de Janeiro State Assembly Human Rights Defense Commission, and a history professor) was a source of inspiration. He was the only one with the courage to establish a Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry on the militias in Rio (which investigates the involvement of government officials with paramilitary groups) and to identify the rise of the militias to public power. Together with Rodrigo Pimentel, it was he who helped us define the plot. After a year and a half or two, the first draft of the screenplay was ready. The objective is to approach intentions, without imprisoning them. It's very difficult to make an action movie with content, to demystify the 'status' of the police. ES: TEW has this same thing: it possesses more psychological layers, a reversal in the arc of Nascimento's life and a more political dimension.

-- Marcos Prado

The Brazilian Release

The first ELITE SQUAD film was a hit in Brazil- but barely made it to theaters. Thanks to a leak of the finished film from a post-production house, the highly anticipated film hit the streets as a bootleg DVD months ahead of its theatrical release. A survey commission found that well over 11 million Brazilians had already seen the film when it finally hit theaters months earlier than anticipated, the release date having been moved up as far as possible in an effort to combat the impact of the piracy.

Additionally, fearing the impact of the film, the real life BOPE sued to stop the release, claiming that the film unfairly portrayed them as ultra-violent and lacking integrity. This put the filmmakers in a very difficult position, with piracy on one end and lawsuits on the other.

Despite all of these factors, the film was a hit the moment it hit screens. And the impact didn't stop when the audience walked out of the theater. The film is widely credited for having prompted a fierce debate in Rio about the war on drugs and drug legalization, the Brazilian prison system, and the tactics that the police, militias, gangs and drug runners had been using. In the process, Captain Nascimento became one of the most iconic figures of Brazilian cinema.

So when it came time to make the sequel, the filmmakers were determined not to let history repeat itself. They undertook strict measures to prevent any leaks, ranging from printing the script in red ink (to prevent photocopying) to engaging military policemen to guard the film... even going so far as to contain all post-production and editing in a secure location, accessible only to four people and with no access to the internet.

The measures paid off as ELITE SQUAD: THE ENEMY WITHIN began smashing box office records. Nearly 1.5 million Brazilians came out on opening weekend see the film (on 695 screens, that's over 2,000 people per screen on opening weekend), giving it the biggest opening weekend for a homegrown film in the history of Brazil. After nine more weeks, ES: TEW became Brazil's highest grossing film of all time, trampling the grosses of recent box office champion AVATAR (and without the benefit of inflated 3-D ticket prices).

All of this was done without a traditional theatrical distributor. Convinced of the potential of the film, and having retained full ownership of their rights, Zazen Producões hired a distribution executive and a handful of staff and self-released ES: TEW themselves. The healthy box office returns have inspired Zazen and Padilha to continue releasing films, working directly with Brazil's best actors, writers, and directors to ensure that filmmakers get a bigger piece of the box office pie.

Just as its predecessor did, ES: TEW has ruffled the feathers of some very important people. While the film is fictional, the fact is that the questions raises are the same questions some of the younger, more idealistic (and arguably less corrupt) politicians and pundits have been asking for years. Who is really benefiting from the crime and drugs that have plagued Rio for years, and how many people have the incentive to make sure the flow of cash and product keeps going?

These questions that are not just relevant in Rio, or Brazil, or South America. The ideas and questions raised in ES: TEW are bigger than one country, and so, from an American perspective, one has to wonder- will we ever have an American Captain Nascimento? And what would we think of him?