Thursday, January 24, 2008

REVIEW: City of God

City of God

Year: 2002
Director: Fernando Meirelles
Starring: Alexandre Rodrigues, Leandro Firmino, Phellipe Haagensen, Matheus Nachtergaele, Alice Braga
Distributor: Miramax Films
MPAA: Rated R

City of God also known as Cidade de Deus, isn't the type of movie I would have ever watched. Simply for 2 reasons only. The first being that its a foreign film meaning no English language, but English subtitles only. The second is that its a film I never knew existed. I have never heard of anyone mentioning this film yet it was nominated for 4 Academy Awards. These 2 reasons alone would have not gotten me to watch and review this film. It was a teacher that filled me in on this movie when she was talking about her recent films she watched and because of that, I thank her very much. After reading some reviews and looking at the premise for the movie, I was excited. This was going to be my first foreign film I review and you bet your damn ass, it wont be the last.

Plot Outline:
The story follows Rocket (Alexandre Rodrigues) as he tries to survive in the favelas without being corrupted like so many of his former friends and turning to crime. Pursuing his dream of becoming a photographer, he is able to show the streets of the city as they really are, the pointless deaths are harsh influence put upon each and every person living with the city's limits. The idea is placed upon the overbearing pressure in the favelas to turn to crime, following the characters through their childhood and through their years, growing, changing and for the most part dying at the hands of the violence they so desire to be a part of. Showing you the cycle that grips the slums of Brazil.

The story of City of God is really intense. Its based on true events which is quite scary. Its filled with many messages that come out to the audience. The plot is pretty simple yet harsh. The film is told through many flashbacks as some of today's films are. The characters that we get introduced to play very big parts in the film and each one has a significant purpose. The action is rough and engaging. It really makes you feel bad for whats going on because simply you cant imagine yourself in the same situation as the characters in the film. I found the ending to be pretty conclusive, but also left open to whats going to happen next. I found the films story to be really depressing and hard. Its not everyday you see films this intense with many moments where your jaw is dropped down to the floor because you cant get your eyes off the screen. The plot had me that interested that I just couldn't look away. I have to say that City of God has a mesmerizing story.

Its so shocking that a film of this proportions doesn't feature any famous celebrities yet it still has many moments where the stars of the film truly shine. The entire cast of the film gave 100% in their performances that I simply cannot describe each one, but since I'm nice, I will. Alexandre Rodrigues plays the main character of the film because hes basically the narrator of this story and he plays the character Rocket. He has many scenes where he really puts his acting to good use. Leandro Firmino plays Li'l Z'e and hes just fabulous. He looks the only one in the film that seems to be enjoying himself. He gives one hell of a performance that it makes some of today's actors seem weak. Then we have Phellipe Haagensen play Benny and hes very good in his own way. We also have Matheus Nachtergaele play Carrot and although hes got a pretty big part in the film, he hardly talks much because the film isn't really talking about him, but rather the other gang members.

The movie has a dark tone with some hint of brightness that makes the contrast seem really heavy. It feels like the movie was filmed in the dessert. The cinematography is just phenomenal. Cesar Charlone was nominated for Best Cinematography for his work in this film and I really think he should have gotten it. Their are many shots that show what a fantastic job he did. The movie was filmed using hand camera, the same style used in some of the Bourne series and the latest film, Cloverfield. Using this style really makes this an experience you have to see it to believe it. Detail is very high with many areas of the movie receiving great detail even in small objects you cant really focus on. The movie also has many quick cut and fade away shots that resemble what Tony Scott had in the 2004 thriller, Man on Fire. These can become slight annoying at times because it distracts the films story with its quick movements.

The soundtrack for the film is outstanding in a way. Theirs no real score that's been built from the ground up for full use, but instead we get many other music that some how go well with the films design. Their are many scenes were the screen is filled with live music, mostly from the late James Brown that bring the feeling of the movie to stand out. The film also consists of many Brazilian type music that's very lively and filled with many beats. Since the movie is a foreign film, theirs obviously no English language spoken. But the language that the cast do speak is spoken very clearly and seemed precise to me. Its crazy that a film like this doesn't feature any music that really separate it from many other films, yet it features some of the most lively music I have ever heard.

City of God is not an easy film to watch simply because of how depressing it can get you. The films story is really intense and violent with many of the scenes mostly consisting of flashbacks. The cast is outstanding in every way even though you probably wont find any famous celebs in the film. The visual look of the city is great with the movie boasting one of the best cinematography I have ever seen in a film. The music although doesn't feature its own score, has many music that's presented very well through out the films 2 hours and 10 minutes. I cant really recommend this movie to just anybody because its a pretty rough film. I warn you to have a strong mind and heart before you consider to watch City of God. As for the many other foreign film fanatics, this is one of the best foreign films I have ever seen.

Grade: A

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