Freedom in Film: “Elite Squad 2: The Enemy Within”
The Motion Picture industry has been a bastion of collectivist thought for decades. Ayn Rand famously tried to help stem the Red Tide in Hollywood when she wrote her classic Textbook of Americanism. I hope to carry on her crusade but to do so in a different way. Instead of focusing on the negative my goal is to bring to light those films from around the globe that exemplify the struggle between liberty and coercion.
That is why I am doing a new weekly feature, rating movies according to if they are pro-liberty or pro-tyranny. Each movie will be given a rating of zero to five “Beacons of Liberty.” A film receives a rating based on how well it exemplifies the ideas of Individualism or brings to light the terrible evils of collectivism. An example of a movie that gets a rating of five “Beacons of Liberty” is the film 1984. That is the film version of George Orwell’s classic novel which shows what the logical conclusion of collectivist thought leads to, which is the total annihilation of the individual. I like all types of movies and I love Liberty so I thought this would be a great way to combine the two together. I’m also working on a zombie screenplay, so I will be reviewing tons of zombie movies in the future as well.
My first review is Elite Squad 2: The Enemy Within. It is a Brazilian film that deals with corrupt police and politicians and their ties with organized crime in Rio de Janeiro. I give it fpur “Beacons of Liberty″ because it shines the light on corrupt politicians who use the power of government to buy votes, enrich themselves and use dirty cops to kill individuals to protect their interests. The main character Lt. Colonel Roberto Nascimento discovers the corruption and is forced to confront the system when his best friend and son are shot.
Elite Squad 2 is a sequel. The first Elite Squad focused on the war between cops and drug dealers. That is how Elite Squad 2 begins but like Lt. Col. Nascimento says toward the end of the film ”the system is much more comprehensive than I expected”. In the film Lt. Col. Nascimento is a member of an elite Para-Military Police Unit. He is a gung-ho hard charger ready to get rid of the drug dealing scum. After a prison riot where a drug cartel leader is shot he is promoted to head the wire tapping division at the Rio de Janeiro’s Department of Public Security. That is where he uncovers how the politicians are really the biggest criminals of all in Rio de Janeiro. At the end he testifies before a congressional hearing and because of his testimony he makes many of those corrupt cops and politicians pay.
He is helped throughout by an unlikely ally, a Diogo Fraga who is married to Nascimento’s ex-wife and is president of Human Rights Aide, a non-governmental Organization that is critical of the brutal tactics of the Rio de Janeiro police. At the beginning there is a prison riot scene where Fraga goes in to negotiate the release of the hostages where Nascimento is in charge of the police force trying to end it. Things go wrong and the leader of the prison riot is shot as he is surrendering. This catapults into the public eye both Fraga who is seen as a hero for risking his life to negotiate the end of the violence and Nascimento because his team killed the leader of the riot who was in the process of surrendering. Fraga pushes for Nascimento to get fired but after public support for Nascimento becomes apparent the governor relents and instead of firing him promotes him to the Department of Public Security.
From there Nascimento goes to war against the drug dealers in the slums of Rio. As his para-military units kills and captures the drug dealers the corrupt cops with their militias backed by vote seeking politicians move in to fill the power vacuum.
Fraga and a journalist are the only other one’s beside Nascimento who see that the politicians are in league with the militias. It all comes to a head when the journalist is murdered after she finds campaign posters and stolen police weapons in a house being rented by the corrupt cops and their militia, which ties the governor and two other corrupt politicians to the criminal activity of the militas.
The finale occurs at a congressional hearing headed by Fraga in which Nascimento tesitifies and calls out the guilty politicians who are in league with the dirty cops. It is a great scene and one of my favorite lines from Nascimento’s speech is when he questions his own brutal behavior in the past “I’ve been in the police force for 21 years. And in that time I can’t say why I’ve killed or in the name of whom I’ve killed for. But a cop doesn’t pull the trigger by himself. Half of your (talking to Fraga) colleagues should be in prison…over half.”
What I love most about this movie is the ending sequence or the resolution of the story. There is a sweeping camera shot of the Brazilian capital, Brasilia. The Brazilian capital, built back in the 50′s, was inspired by socialist utopian thinking and it was done on a grand scale.. It is stark and isolated. It is surrounded by the poverty and chaos outside its border. But the politicians live in its protected isolation. And that really sums up how the villains in the movie would have stayed in protected isolation if it had not been for Nascimento and Fraga. At the end Nascimento narrates over the sweeping shots of the Brazilian capital.
“The system is much more comprehensive than I expected. No wonder the drug dealers, cops and militiamen kill so many people in the slums. No wonder there are so many scandals that occur in Brasilia and despite the successive administrations the corruption persists.”
Nascimento continues his narration and asks ” Who do you think pays for all of this?” there is a pause then “exactly and it’s quite expensive. Very expensive”
Another excellent aspect of the film was the condemnation of the prison system in Brazil. Diogo Fraga is introduced at the beginning of the film while giving a lecture on the exploding Brazilian prison population. He is giving statistics and gets a chuckle out of the audience when he tells them that with the current rate of incarceration everyone in Brazil will be in prison by 2087. We shouldn’t be laughing in America though. The United States has the highest reported incarceration rate in the world. The prison population has exploded since the 1970′s and the biggest reason for that is the “War on Drugs”.
And that is one of the reasons I didn’t give Elite Squad 2: Enemy Within a “5 Beacons of Liberty out of 5″ because it doesn’t address the real reason why the corrupt police and politicians have the excuse to expand their power and enrich themselves in the process. When you destroy individual liberty through the law, the law enforcers must become increasingly totalitarian to keep the population in compliance.
The story is fiction but deals with real issues not only in Brazil but in every government on Earth. I also didn’t give it “5 Beacons of Liberty” because while the film does highlight the criminal activities of the police and politicians, it fails to indict the real “system”, which is government. That is where the few through legal means enrich themselves and their friends. Stated differently, the film fails to get down to the bedrock of the problem which is government itself.
Frederic Bastiat beautifully defined government, which still applies today; “Government is the great fiction through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else”.
That being said, anytime you have a congressional scene at the end of a movie in which government officials are called to account and are shown being led to jail is an exciting and cathartic experience. The story is one that anyone who loves liberty can get behind and the movie does illuminate corruption of politicians within the “system”. But like Nascimento says in the film “the system will give up a hand to save an arm…and it is resilient.”
Overall, I really enjoyed the film. It has some great action sequences, the acting is first-rate and the story has a good pace. There is a subplot between Nascimento and his son that will definitely pull at your heart-strings and reminds us that the force of government seems fine when it is used far away or against someone else but when it comes close to home it becomes apparent how deadly it truly is.
Check out Elite Squad 2: The Enemy Within and let me know many “Beacons of Liberty” you would give it.