Thoughts: While it had less action than I was expecting, Elite Squad: The Enemy Within makes up for it with a cracking story of crime and politics situated in Rio de Janeiro. The acting is top notch, the plot is well thought out and frighteningly believable, and what action that does exist is well handled and very awesome.
Captain Nascimento (Wagner Moura, downplaying to perfection) leads his elite team known as the BOPE into a prison riot, with the outcome being deemed less than favourable by the upper brass, and titles stripped soon after. Unfortunately for them however, the public loved the captain's brutally efficient handling of the rogue prisoners (killing them all), and so they deem a promotion necessary, thereby killing two birds with one stone. Now firmly planted into the upper political sphere, Nascimento turns all his power to ridding the streets of crime- and he succeeds. Unfortunately though, his war has just jumped to a new level, with the many, many corrupt cops all over the city taking over from the drug cartels and criminals. His life and job will now become more difficult to handle than he could ever have imagined.
The film struck me as short-form, closed in version of The Wire. The film shows all the various levels in the underworld, top to bottom, and the machinations that exist between politics and crime. We get to see battles in the media, on the open forum, on the streets and in the police stations. Weapons are drawn, both literally and figuratively, and blood is spilled more often than it needs to be. Ultimately though, what we have is a film of various people just making their way through this mire of trouble and circumstance, making decisions that have very dire consequences. In that respect, Elite Squad: The Enemy Within flies high.
The action is spaced quite far apart, and suffers from some serious shaky cam, but this only seems to add to the mucky, chaotic feel of street warfare. We do get some awesome shots of Nascimento ordering insertions into major drug favelas up high in a helicopter, switching to the men making their moves below. This sequence is damn exciting, as is one extended street battle with a drug kingpin later in the film, culminating in an unfortunate casualty. It is all quite thrilling stuff, heightened with care for the characters onscreen; you really want to them to succeed/pay for their crimes.
I haven't seen the previous Elite Squad (2007) film, so I can't comment on that. But this film is a standalone tale, and one that I can recommend for fans of crime thrillers.