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City of God

A movie directed by Fernando Meirelles

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City of God

  • Mar 19, 2006
Pros: Everything.

Cons: Nothing. (some may want to beware of extreme violence)

The Bottom Line: See it.

Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie's plot.

Yeah, I can’t even come up with a title to do this movie justice. I just absolutely loved it. This is movie #6 of my film class, coming from the favelas (poverty-stricken areas, basically) of Brazil. I don’t even have any goofy quips to start myself off with, so I’ll just get straight into the goods.

The Story:
A flash of a knife. A chicken being plucked. Another (live) chicken apparently figuring things out. It escapes, only to have a host of hungry, gun-toting guys behind it. The chicken pauses in front of a young man, who is ordered by the leader of the group to get the chicken. He complies, only to suddenly realize there are police behind him – and a shootout is about to being.


We’ve just met Buscapé, or as the subtitles will inform us, Rocket. He brings us back to where everything began, introducing us to a place named City of God, where God is all but present. It is through Rocket that we meet other characters, a veritable truckload of them in some ways, and see how their lives have progressed, from the frighteningly psychotic Li’l Zé, the coolest hood around Benny, to the downfall of righteous Knockout Ned, and many others. Rocket tells each of their stories, rewinding and moving forward as necessary, and as we go we see how all the puzzle pieces of each person’s life connects with another. It’s a story of how a the unwanted excluded turn to drugs as a means of survival, leading to violence and mayhem, corruption, and attempts to escape into something better.

What Makes City of God So Awesome:
Once again, I will say that I absolutely loved this movie. It’s totally unapologetic, if I may be so bold as to say. It’s one of those movies that looks you right in the eye, and if you don’t like it, that’s fine, and if you do, then thank you.

Fernando Meirelles (with Katie Lund helping to cast as well as guiding Meirelles around the city of Rio de Janeiro) snagged the book by Paulo Lins and transformed it with great skill into the movie we see here. Interestingly, Lins had incorporated at least 200 characters into his book and though Meirelles doesn’t have quite that many, he still manages to utilize a great many characters, and all the while doing it in a way that the audience doesn’t lose track of who is who and what they’re doing. An interesting side note is that a lot of people in the movie aren’t actors in the traditional sense – they happen to be people Lund cast straight off the streets. And a fantastic job they did too – another reason for me to be raving about getting new blood into Hollywood.

If you’re familiar with the movie Crash then you already have some idea of the style of this movie. It takes different life stories and shows how they all weave together, from childhood into adulthood and even beyond that. For example, Rocket knew a lot of the people who grow up to be killed or otherwise incorporated into the gang formed by Li’l Zé, whom Rocket also knew before he became Li’l Zé. The almost raw feeling of this film, editing, camera use, and unabashed violence (I argue with some of the claims that the violence is stylized – no way man) is another aspect that gives this film the power that it has. You might want to be aware of the violence going into this, depending upon who you are. But as for camera shots and style, the second we see Rocket in the beginning with the chicken, I decided this was going to be a very interesting movie.

Though the movie does rewind to return to someone’s previous story, Rocket narrates what is going on, and it is actually difficult to become confused. You’d have to really be working at that or really not paying attention, which is near to impossible because the movie just sucks you right in. As does the music. It really adds a lot of spice to the movie, both traditional and then a bit of American (as when they’re in the club – I think I heard REO Speedwagon in there?).

If I keep going, I’ll end up with more than I’m sure you want to read. The movie is good, end of story. I actually can’t believe how much I like this movie because I want to give it 6 stars. Yeah, can you believe that? I like it that much. I should put it on my wishlist. So seriously, if you’re into foreign films, or anything I mentioned above appeals to you, by all means, take a look, and if you don’t like it, you can tell me I’m weird.

But of course, I won’t listen to you and keep on ranting about 6 stars…



Viewing Format: DVD
Suitability For Children: Not suitable for Children of any age

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February 05, 2011
This is one of my favorite foreign films to date!
More City of God (2002 Movie) reviews
Quick Tip by . January 30, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
phenomenal movie!! moving and beautiful to look at.
review by . September 24, 2006
posted in Movie Hype
Life is hard and difficult. Unfortunately, for many people in the world life is also unbearably brutal. Living in the United States we often forget that, even if we grew up in impoverished small towns or in the slums of the inner city. CITY OF GOD is a film that examines the brutality of humanity in a housing project that is part of Rio de Janeiro.    CITY OF GOD is the name of a housing project built in Rio de Janeiro in the 1960s. From watching the movie, it seemed to me that …
review by . January 17, 2006
City of god is a film that you have to see to know how good you have it. These kid's are faced with everything from murder to drugs and it doesn't stop there. Not only do they have to live in an environment filled with crime some of them take part in it before they even hit age 10 and what's crazy is that this is based on a true story. This is a very rugged film as you see children that must do this to survive and the rise and fall of one child that did this for the rush and to satisfy a hunger …
review by . November 25, 2005
I had rented this out from the library and after I've finished viewing it you are left wondering about the irony of the title. It is not long in the movie where you realize that the City of God is a place totally forgotten by everybody. Still, that is the name that the government of Brazil gave to the housing developments outside Rio, constructed in the early `60s to hold thousands of people. Those slums, known as "the favelas", eventually led to the isolation of poor people from the city center, …
review by . March 30, 2004
posted in Movie Hype
This film attacks with images which resemble predatory birds flying at us at supersonic speed, trying to claw out our eyes with their talons. Paradoxically, the film also numbs us to the relentless carnage it so graphically portrays. Directed by Fernando Meirelles with invaluable assistance from Katia Lund and set in the slums of Rio de Janeiro (a squalid and violent area known as "City of God"), the film's narrator is Buscape ("Rocket"), an amateur photographer. Listing other actors and the names …
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Nicole ()
Ranked #71
Age: 27 Currently: Freelancing my butt off and querying my other novel, Blood for Wolves. Who likes seriously factured fairy tales? =D      Like books? Then take it from a real, live … more
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About this movie


Like cinematic dynamite,City of God lights a fuse under its squalid Brazilian ghetto, and we're a captive audience to its violent explosion. The titularfavelais home to a seething army of impoverished children who grow, over the film's ambitious 20-year timeframe, into cutthroat killers, drug lords, and feral survivors. In the vortex of this maelstrom is L'il Z (Leandro Firmino da Hora--like most of the cast, a nonprofessional actor), self-appointed king of the dealers, determined to eliminate all competition at the expense of his corrupted soul. With enough visual vitality and provocative substance to spark heated debate (and box-office gold) in Brazil, codirectors Fernando Meirelles and Kátia Lund tackle their subject head on, creating a portrait of youthful anarchy so appalling--and so authentically immediate--that City of God prompted reforms in socioeconomic policy. It's a bracing feat of stylistic audacity, borrowing from a dozen other films to form its own unique identity. You'll flinch, but you can't look away. -- Jeff Shannon
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Director: Fernando Meirelles
Genre: Drama, Foreign
Release Date: January 17, 2003
MPAA Rating: R
DVD Release Date: June 8, 2004
Runtime: 2hrs 11min
Studio: Miramax Films
First to Review
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