City of God

A Film Review By Jason L. King

Rating:Rated R for strong brutal violence, sexuality, drug content and language
Starring: Matheus Nachtergaele,Leandro Firmino da Hora,Seu Jorge, Alexandre Rodrigues
Directed By:Kátia Lund and Fernando Meirelles

Final Grade:

Over the course of the last few years, I have seen more films than most mammals that attend college, and work 40 hours a week should see. What I have learned from all this is that there are some good films and bad films. A lot of times the good films get overlooked for really stupid reasons. Whether that reason is bad marketing, too low of a budget, not enough push by the production companies the plain and simple truth is that they don’t get the credit they deserve. Then there is a whole different genre of film, that being ones that are subtitled. The Average American hates subtitles, because reading takes work. I should know, I am an American and I have been guilty of avoiding subtitled films in the past as well. But by avoiding them, I realized I am missing out on some of the best films I have ever seen. City of God was no exception.

City of God is the story of a young boy who watches his brother follow a life of crime and gang violence. But when the torch is passed to a young kid of his generation, the local gangs begin dealing drugs and become increasingly more violent. But as the boy grows up his love for photography and his life in Rio de Janeiro, The City of God, intersect. The boy begins to understand the roots behind the cities complex and ever increasing gang violence as the last two remaining rival gangs fight a bitter fight to the very end.

Despite that the film is subtitled and in Portuguese, it ranks up there as one of the better films that I have seen this season. The story is a powerful one that keeps an audience entertained, even though the movie is slow in spots. The camera shots and transitions between sequences are wonderful as well, and really enhance the over all feeling the film is trying to achieve. I really felt that the cinematography was one of the high points of the film, and what I feel is something very close to cinematography perfection.

But cinematography isn’t everything; otherwise there would be a lot of wonderful films out there. Plot makes movies; cinematography and acting enhance it. Make no mistake City of God doesn’t cop out when it comes to a plot. The plot is rich and full of detail yet remains entertaining, something that is hard considering the subject matter. Also the use of the narrators “train of thought” type plot line makes the film both interesting as well as entertaining. By train of thought type plot line I mean that we learn the story only through the information that the narrator provides for us when the narrator chooses to tell us this. There have been attempts like this in the past, and the end result wasn’t so pretty. But City of God pulls it off with grace. As an audience you can actually almost feel the emotion that the narrator is pouring into his story, even though most of us can’t speak a word of Portuguese.

In the end, I can’t really do anything but praise City of God. It was a wonderful film that deserves more than it will ever be given. The one downside of the film is that like I stated earlier, it feels a little “slow” in spots, but the end result is worth the wait. I have heard a lot of other people say that it is not for your “mainstream” audience, and instead is something that only an “intelligent filmgoer” can appreciate. Take that idea and toss it out the window. I have faith in the average moviegoer. Even they know a decent flick when they see it, the main problem is convincing them that it is worth their time and their money. No review or critic in the world has ever been able to do that, otherwise we wouldn’t have box office hits like Darkness Falls or Just Married. But never the less as long as there are critics; they will still try to convince audiences to expand their horizons. I am a self-proclaimed critic, so I am not much different than any other movie critic that you will read. Don’t waste your money on the flicks that don’t deserve it, put them towards something that is worth a lot more. If you put up the $6 for films like City of God, you won’t be let down. But if you put up the money for films like Just Married or Head of State…well I can’t be so certain…

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