Starring: Cleo Pires, Fabrício Boliveira, Thiago Martins
Director: Tomas Portella
Running Time: 99 mins
Special Forces (Operações Especiais) is a Brazilian film about a woman who, just a few months after joining the police, is recruited to a special operation to take down the corrupt and violent establishment in a provincial city.
While it does offer up an interesting and often impressively nuanced look at the relationship between crime and authority, Special Forces is a film that just doesn’t have the audacity or ingenuity to really hit home, taking an interesting premise and portraying it through the guise of a really rather generic action movie, that lacks either the intense excitement or dramatic depth to grab you at any point.
But let’s start on the bright side, with the fact that Special Forces does feature some interesting and regularly striking ideas about the nature of crime, the police, and their role in society. In that respect, it is far from a plain old action movie about good guys vs. bad guys, as the story brings into question the notion that honest, uncorrupt policing and authority is always something that can work for the greater good.
While corruption and betrayal are a regular feature in all of these cop movies, it’s that slightly more nuanced and arguably real-world perception that makes Special Forces a really interesting watch at times, with its action and mystery working well as a vehicle to further that key theme, putting into question what we might regard as a desirable or normal relationship between the police and the wider public.
Now, in that, you can draw parallels with a number of films, but the way that Special Forces tackles themes around the very nature of law enforcement reminded me of director David Ayer’s excellent drama End Of Watch. However, while the two films deal with similarly riveting ideas, the big difference is the way in which those ideas are portrayed, with End Of Watch taking a much bolder but infinitely more effective approach than Special Forces.
With its quieter, more meditative atmosphere, End Of Watch worked really well as an engrossing drama that tells a story featuring police officers. Special Forces, on the other hand, goes the opposite way, attempting to use big action and crime thrills to achieve the same goals, but in doing so unfortunately cheapens the effect of what is a genuinely interesting and eye-opening story.
The action may be fairly entertaining at times, but its loud and chaotic interruptions to the story distract from the intrigue brought about by those main themes, while the film’s attempts to craft an intricate and nail-biting crime mystery at the same time falls flat, only further taking away from the dramatic potential of it all.
And that’s why I can’t say that the story here is all that impressive. Its themes and core ideas are excellent, and when it doubles down and focuses on them alone, it really makes for an interesting watch, but unlike End Of Watch, which stuck to its guns and kept those themes in centre stage, Special Forces is just a little too desperate to keep you excited and entertained, relying too much on action spectacle and unnecessary mystery throughout.
Overall, then, I found Special Forces a bit of a mixed bag. While certainly not a bad film, it’s a movie with immense dramatic potential thanks to riveting and nuanced themes that’s unfortunately undone by a frustratingly simplistic and generic action movie style, failing to grab you and keep you there throughout with jarring interruptions and gimmick-ish subplots throughout, and that’s why I’m giving it a 7.0.