I went into this movie knowing virtually nothing about it, and now, I can honestly say it’s one of my all-time favorites. ‘City of God’ is an epic, emotional, and energetic crime-drama from directors Fernando Meirelles and Katia Lund. I really can’t stress how energetic and frenetic of a pace this movie has, jumping through time periods with almost jarring results until you catch up with it. It actually reminded me a lot of movies like Goodfellas or Animal Kingdom, two of my other all-time favorites (I guess my love for epic crime-dramas is no fluke). City of God is considered by many to be one of the best movies of all time, and I agree with that consensus one hundred percent.
The movie hits the ground running with a party in the streets of Rio, or the ‘city of god’. Chickens are being killed for a barbecue, and one of them escapes. The gang chases the chicken through the streets of Rio, eventually pulling their pistols and shooting at it with little regard to the consequences. The gang comes to a main street where the protagonist of the story, and narrator, ‘Rocket’ as he’s called, is yelled at to grab the chicken. Police emerge on the other end of the street, and as they pull out their guns, Rocket is caught in the middle of the primary struggle in City of God. This is more or less then main idea of the movie; an innocent, quiet young man caught in the middle of these two worlds, struggling to survive.
The movie then jumps back about ten years, where we learn the story takes place in the 60’s and 70’s. Rocket is growing up in the outskirts of Rio, as he introduces the major players of the City of God tale. Again, not unlike Goodfellas, or many of Scorcese’s big crime epics. Long story short, a young, psychotic boy named Li’l Dice grows up with Rocket, and quickly, not to mention violently, grows up to become the head criminal in Rio during the 70’s. Meanwhile, Rocket just wants to become a photographer and get laid. However, he gets swept up in the struggle between two rival factions fighting for the city, one by Li’l Dice (now going by Li’l Zé) and an ex-military man out for vengeance, ‘Knockout Ned’. I’m laying out the story in broad strokes, but by the time the tale gets back to where it began, dozens of innocent people, including young kids, have been killed in the struggle. The movie ends with a great turn or two, but ultimately on a positive note, as it reveals that the whole unbelievable story is based on a true story.
I don’t even know where to begin with this movie in talking about what I enjoyed most. The cinematography in particular is frantic and hectic, as it should be to keep up with the equally fast plot. It lends the movie so much believability, often feeling like a documentary more than a fictional drama. In that regard, it also doesn’t shy away from any of the violence that went on during the time. People died every day, often for inconsequential and meaningless reasons, or just being in the wrong place at the wrong time. One scene in particular will probably haunt me for awhile, involving a young boy proving himself to Li’l Zé by killing another young boy. It’s incredibly dark stuff, and yet the tone of the movie never becomes overly depressing. City of God captures the spirit of it’s location and people beautifully; all of this violence happened on a daily basis, but it wasn’t going to stop anybody from living their lives.
That’s going to wrap it up for City of God. I’ve been processing this movie all day, and it’ll probably be on my mind for awhile. To me, the best movies give you something to think about long after it’s over, and even better, inspire you creatively. That’s exactly how I felt when it was over. City of God is one of my new all-time favorites, and I couldn’t possibly recommend it any more. Even better, it’s on Netflix, so queue that shit up ASAP and watch one of the best movies you’ll probably ever see. Stay tuned for more movies coming this week, as I’m slowly getting back on schedule after a busy past few days. Thanks for reading!