And you can see why: civil liberties are suspended, trampled on and then buried as suspects are shot, stabbed and suffocated by members of the unit. In a recurring motif, see-through plastic bags are pulled over a suspect’s head and, to the sound of facial pummelling, seen to fill up with blood. It’s questionable whether Padilha is offering an objective ethical enquiry into the deployment of these ‘techniques’ or merely whooping up their violent ends from behind the camera.
Suffice to say, these scenes may leave more liberal-minded viewers feeling a little queasy. Viewed as a pumped-up action movie, ‘Elite Squad’, which won the Golden Bear at this year’s Berlin, is also sold short by its awkward structure, first swooping into the favela to deal with sundry gunplay, drug crime and police corruption, then tailing off on a ‘Full Metal Jacket’ style training camp where prospective BOPE candidates are put through the gruelling wringer. It is impressively made, but leaves a nasty taste in the mouth.