City of GodCity of God
Year: 2002
Rating: R
Length: 130 minutes / 2.17 hours

About a decade ago, I saw a clip from City of God (2002) in my Film Studies course at college. One of my classmates brought it to show everyone how realistic the acting appeared during a scene where young children were initiated into a gang. I had to admit that the acting seemed authentic. However, I didn’t consider it as part of the whole movie until recently, when I had a chance to sit down and watch the entire thing. While I’ll agree that this short clip was a good example of what the film had to offer, I was more in awe of plenty of other aspects it brought to the table.

First off, the beginning of this movie wowed me with its cinematography. The whole “chicken chase” sequence is perhaps one of the best I’ve ever seen. City of God still manages to maintain some exquisite subtlety in showing the audience what it wants to throughout the rest of the film. That being said, this setup from the start sets the tone for the observant viewer to appreciate. Aside from the camera work, the little “act title” bits were also done in a way that helped to drive the plot forward with plenty of foreshadowing.

Overall, I found the story to be engaging, but the main character/narrator’s arc was a little undeveloped (har har). There’s this framing that focuses on his photography, but the audience only ever sees it come to play in the plot close to the very end of the film. I’m sure this was to hold closer to the “true story” it was based on (which is another aspect I found fascinating). And yet, it also felt like a missed opportunity along the way. In the end, the actors’ performances did feel very authentic in a way that it almost seemed like I was watching a documentary. The only reason I knew I wasn’t was for the fact that the camera kept moving in creative and artistic ways.

Spectacular cinematography for a gritty “true story,” I give City of God 4.5 stars out of 5.

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