With a roaming, frenetic, chaotic camera, split-second editing, and a number of other gimmicks, Meirelles recreates with startling immediacy the chaotic, unpredictable nature of life -and death- in the City of God, and ultimately renders the audience as numbed to violence as the inhabitants of the film are. On a parallel nature, he also explores issues of moral ambiguity, and shows, through his characters, how even the most stalwart and good-intentioned people become corrupted by hate, greed, lust, and the anarchy that surrounds them.
As ambitious and impressive as the film may be, however, it is not perfect. For one, the film suffers from being overstuffed with storylines and characters, which, in turn, render each character's narrative less developed than it might have been; in consequence, the audience finds it harder to care for characters which it, unfortunately, does not know enough. Personally, I would have liked to see more of the photographer's story, as he was the one character I connected emotionally with. Secondly, the film is also hurt, in some cases, by its own stylishness; indeed, while Meirelles makes, for the most part, good use of his array of flashy techniques and gimmicks (including several standout, highly memorable montages), some scenes would have been better suited to a more restrained hand. As such, some key scenes, which would have, if realized correctly, created important emotional links with the audience, are sabotaged by Meirelles' distracting direction.
Overall, however, the film is very much a success, and a must-see because of its highly kinetic direction, fascinating subject, and impressive intellectual analysis.
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