Monday, September 23, 2013

204 of 1001 Movies: City of God (2002)

The only thing that could have made this movie better was finding out it was a true story at the end. This also ranks as one of the best foreign films I've seen. It captures many things about Brazil. From the terror of the slums to the pretty landscapes, to the diversity of the people residing there. The movie is one of the most terrifying things I've seen. Fernando Meirelles works with Katia Lund to direct this movie, and bring to life almost every single character that is in the movie. Whether it's the main character Rocket, or just a minor one that is one of the women who makes a few appearance it pulls you into all their lives and sees the roundabout destiny they take as their lives are affected by crime.

Summary: Rocket and Lil'Dice are two boys who grow up in the same violent neighborhood, Rio de Janeiro. They have very different aspirations, and both know how to fight for what they want. Their lives though take two different paths. Rocket is an aspiring photographer and Lil'Dice goes the route of a drug dealer. Rocket may be one of the kindest guys someone would meet, but Lil'Dice is one of the most violent and arrogant drug dealers there is, and when he begins to make himself known in the city things turn disastrous.

Acting: You don't need actors you've heard of to have a great movie. I think the fact that the people acting in this movie are unknown helps us further delve into the characters. There is nothing outside of these roles that could change my view of who they were in the moment of the movie. Alexandre Rodriguez is Rocket, and he does a great job at showing this guy seeming to just be a normal teen, but battling the life he is surrounded by in the slums. It isn't just battling to survive though that is his problem, but also battling to not fall into the crimes to accumulate riches quicker. If he wants to succeed then he's going to have to put up with the fact that photography may or not bring him success. Leandro Firmino portrays Lil'Dice who would later become known as Lil'Ze. He makes the guy terrifying all the way through, but when he needs to show that he actually does care for someone or something he does it just as well. The rest of the huge cast makes for powerful performances to. There was no weak actor to the movie.

Filming: The way the movie is shot is very fast paced and brings intensity to the movie. I love how the movie chronicles the events in chapters as well. It moves the movie very well. There is also another method the director does that adds to the movie where he introduces a character first then goes on to advance their story. It's brilliant, because it makes you realize just how quickly you latch on to each character. Like Knockout Ned is introduced as a a guy taking money on the bus, and he seems so kind and polite, and then he develops his story. I'm already attached to who this character is just by the scene on the bus though. The movie is based in the 60's and 70's as well and the time period is captured great. The costumes, the music, and the atmosphere are well done.

Plot: The plot centers around Rocket. He is the narrator and the voice that guides us through the events. What was really fascinating to me about this movie was how one moment the movie would have you hiding your eyes and almost crying because the scenes were brutal, and then the next you're laughing at the instances where Rocket is finding fun in the city. I've never known a movie to offer such a wide array of emotions felt so deeply as that. There are some really difficult scenes to watch though. You have kids being killed and killing. You would think that the fact they have lost their innocence to killing less difficult to watch, but you can't ever dissociate the fact these are kids. Rocket's life shows why many turn to the crimes they do. That doesn't make it an excuse, but even Rocket feels the temptation too. It's very difficult to make it in the city there, and the quickest way to garner money are drugs or robbing.

City of God is surprisingly classified along with other gangster films. If you're looking for a Goodfellas though that is definitely not this movie. I would say it's probably a mix of The Godfather and Boyz in the Hood. While there is always a cautious point to Fernando's movies he also does well with making us care for the characters regardless.

Rating 10 of 10.

City of God (2002) on IMDb

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