City of God

Sometimes a movie comes along that just floors you, its images burn so deeply. City of God is such a film. On the slum streets (called favelas) of Rio de Janeiro, the sun and the samba rhythms caress the senses. Children, some as young as nine, walk the streets in gangs, trading jokes and drugs, carrying guns and smiling when they use them. Death has no consequence in this city of God, just a short walk from the resorts that coddle the tourist trade. The only miracle is living past your teens. In a film of battering audacity, no shock hits harder than the way that director Fernando Meirelles — remember the name, he's that good — choreographs murder to a dance beat, an exuberant form of kiddie recreation.

This two-hour film, spanning the 1960s to the 1980s, moves with whiplash velocity thanks to the joltingly terse script that Braulio Mantovani has adapted from a massive novel by Paulo Lins.

Among the cast of young amateurs, most impressive are Alexandre Rodrigues as Rocket, who uses his interest in photography to bust out of the favela, and Leandro Firmino da Hora as Little Ze, a killer bred without a shred of conscience.

Meirelles is a world-class talent who illuminates every frame of this fresh, ferocious and indelibly moving film. City of God has the scent of a classic.

From The Archives Issue 915: February 6, 2003
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