City of God (2002) 4.71/5 (2)


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Rating: The Good – 92.7
Genre: Crime, Drama
Duration: 130 mins
Director: Fernando Meirelles
Stars: Alexandre Rodrigues, Matheus Nachtergaele, Alice Braga

Broad sweeping and utterly captivating tale of life in the slums of Rio de Janeiro. It chronicles the rise to power of two drug lords as perceived through the eyes of its main character “Rocket”. Rocket is an intelligent and mostly honest young man who wants to escape from the slums and become a photographer. However, it’s his ability to get up close and personal with the deranged Li’l Ze (and his hip and all together nicer partner Benny) that get the attention of his newspaper and so he must continue to walk the dangerous slums to get the pictures his editors want.

City of God is an extraordinary achievement thanks chiefly to director Fernando Meirelles’ ability to give a clear sense of authenticity to the proceedings. Non-Brazilians may never have experienced this world but the film quite amazingly transports you there for all of its 130 minutes. Meirelles’ pacing of the film as it leaps years at a time is also faultless and at times he creates a sense of dread so powerful that few out-and-out horror movie directors could match it. For example, the scenes wherein children are being threatened or pressured into the world of drug pedalling (where Meirelles’ use of high angles shots expertly conveys the weight of that pressure) will give the audience some serious chills.

Meirelles is of course, helped ably by his incredible cast of actors most of whom were amateurs who lived in the City of God or nearby areas. In particular, the three leads Alexandre Rodriguez, Leandro Firmino, and Phellipe Haagensen are excellent in giving each of their characters genuinely relatable characteristics while still maintaining the grittier sides to those roles.

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