There are few movies within the multitudes of film that are truly exceptional. City of God is absolutely one of them, and yet very few people today have heard of it. Like most people, I too have seen it come up on my Netflix recommended section but did not give it a go. For me, it wasn’t until I had heard praises from film reviewers and experts that I decided to watch it. Once it began, I was hooked. From the cinematography, nonlinear plot, characters, and sense of realism (considering it tells you it’s based on a real person and his life at the end actually makes the realism even better). Let’s dive in and flesh out the reasons you should spend your binge time on City of God.
The movie is told through the eyes and mind of Rocket. His observations shape the way everything is shot and told, and gives a great sense of presence. You feel as if you are there too, or were there and are remembering as he is too. Also, the way the camera tracks the characters whether it be in scenes where there is just dialogue or fast paced violence it sets whatever tone the scene is calling for. For instance, when Rocket is just walking with a friend, the camera tracks them calmly and slowly. However, when in scenes of violence there are fast cuts and shaky cam. The way it is all shot makes the viewer feel as if they were a reporter or spectator in these events just as Rocket was.
Many movies employ this storytelling tactic, but not all use it very well. City of God presents its plot successfully by introducing a conflict in which we have no context, and then teaching us not just who the players are in the conflict, but why there is conflict in the first place. It skips back and forward generations and gives us defining moments in characters lives as if they were chapters in a book. Each chapter focuses more on the development of certain characters while others are left to be developed afterward. The formatting of the plot really makes the viewer feel as if they’ve gotten all angles of the story by the end of the film. I felt like I knew all I could about each character, and all of their arcs came full circle.
By far, what will grab you the most are the characters. We see some succumb to the harshness of the slums, while others rise above, only to be shot down. Some, like the main character Rocket, simply spectate while all the vitriol happens around them. Lil Ze, the villain, is someone you will come to hate and fear while watching the movie. Although he is young throughout the film, he is truly unpredictable and menacing. What makes it even more interesting is the fact that there isn’t really a defined hero in the film. It really becomes a collection of villains turning others into what they are, or them killing others already like them. There are only a few untouched by disgusting influence of these people, but even they seem to simply survive and overcome their specific situations, rather than solve major problems. Some character’s fall into villainy is very sad and tragic like Knockout Ned who comes very close to living life unscathed by the dirt of the slums, only to become one of the most violent criminals. Each character’s story will have you enthralled whether you hate them, love them, or just hope they survive.
If you’re going to spend some of your precious binge time to branch out from usual things on Netlfix like Breaking Bad or House of Cards, you should definitely give this a watch. You will be completely captured by the beauty of this movie. It will make you laugh, cry, get angry, and give you a sense of hope all tied up in one movie. The movie is City of God and it deserves your viewership, so watch it!
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