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Jose Padilha's searing Brazilian film plays like a synthesis of Pixote and Dog Day Afternoon, documenting a June 2000 incident in which a thwarted bus robbery in Rio de Janeiro turned into a nationally televised hostage crisis. Swirling around this terrifying ordeal are despairing reflections on race, class, police corruption, media sensationalism, and social inequality. Padilha opens with an elaborately conceived tracking shot that underlines the country's severe social and economic stratification, and as he shifts between a white-hot present tinged with fear to a hallucinatory past of death, poverty, and neglect, the movie generates an almost unendurable tension. In this context the assailant's rage is persuasive and the resolution of the crisis grim and numbing; Padilha allows neither easy answers nor ironic commentary, producing on both sides of the conflict a world of inconsolable grief. In Portuguese with subtitles. 119 min.

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