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    Trash (2015): Movie Review

    "A truly pleasing adventure through the shantytowns of Brazil.” 

    Three Brazilian teenage dump boys are up against corrupt officials in Stephen Daldry’s Trash. Based on Andy Mulligan’s 2010 young adult novel of the same title, this cat-and-mouse adventure film follows the battle of good kids against bad guys in the slums and streets of the busy metropolis of Rio de Janeiro.

    The film begins with a police raid on Angelo (Wagner Moura), the right-hand man of Santos, a wealthy and corrupt congressman. Eyeing the mayoralty seat, Santos has been stashing pay-outs for the election. Stealing his cash and some incriminating materials against him, Angelo flees from Santos’ home and hides. Unfortunately, the police squad finally discovers him and before he is caught, he tosses a wallet containing all evidences into a passing garbage truck. Eventually, Angelo is tortured and killed.

    Raphael (Rickson Teves) is a 14-year old boy living in a lakeside favela. Like his best friend, Gardo (Eduardo Lewis), he spends his days rummaging through the trash at a nearby municipal dump to earn some reals. Incidentally, he finds Angelo’s wallet in the heaps of fresh trash. He pockets the money and shares it with Gardo and hides the rest of the contents. The two buddies soon realize that Raphael’s pick holds greater value, especially when police forces, lead by a crooked nameless officer (Selton Mello), appear at the site and offer big reward for the missing item. The boys get suspicious and when Raphael discovers a key inside the wallet, they team up with fellow guttersnipe Rato (Gabriel Weinstein) to search for answers, as well as getting help from an American priest and social activist, Father Julliard (Martin Sheen), and volunteer English teacher, Olivia (Rooney Mara). 

    Trash feels like a Latin American counterpart of 2008’s Slumdog Millionaire. Both films trace similar storyline of underdogs triumphing against evil forces, chases through poor crowded streets, and large appeal to sentiments. They are also crowd-pleasers, particularly to children, masses and general mainstream viewers. While the older film have successfully drawn characterization in its fully loaded narrative, the present movie falls short in this aspect and concentrates more on its action sequences. It is a busy film throughout. Plot twists are very plenty and thank goodness that the brat protags are able to follow through them, even outsmarting their adult enemies. It is because of Angelo’s wallet, a Pandora’s Box that opens some ills in the country and ultimately sends those kids into an unnecessary quest against some big fishes. It is a heart-pumping adventure film, fast-paced, restless and undeniably energetic.

    The superb production design also added extra charisma to the feature. The dump is believably and vividly fashioned, as well as the murky lake, tortuous alleyways and jam-packed shantytowns. As much as the lensing smartly and prettily captures these details, editing is able to showcase them while the action unfolds one after another.

    The film is set against a backdrop of dishonesty in the government and general economic picture of Brazilian masses. Superficially, it explores the corruption in the country, even down to the local law enforcement, the disheartening inequality between the rich and the poor, and some deeply-rooted cultural practices and lifestyles. In one scene, Raphael is depressingly abducted by the police forces and abused through a brutal car ride. It draws much sentimentality and much like the rest of its narrative, the film fairly succeeds in depicting the country’s plight through visual poetry and appeal to emotion rather than through urgency and genuine concern.

    Actors give as much as they can to their thinly-sketched characters. While Sheen gives justice to his conventional character, Mara finds it hard to break free from the dull Olivia. Both were miserably underused. The film’s true saving grace is the strong and dynamic performance of its young actors. It is affecting how they protect, respect and support each other despite conflicting interests. We might not know much about their individual stories but their brotherhood and rapport sufficiently carry the film. 

    Trash is formulaic, predictable, sentimental and action-packed with truly haunting visuals. Its narrative and characters may be poorly developed but the film is entertaining as a whole. 

    Production companies: Working Title Films 
    Cast: Selton Mello, Wagner Moura, Rooney Mara, Martin Sheen Rickson Tevis, Eduardo Luis, Gabriel Weinstein, Nelson Xavier, Stepan Nercessian, Teca Pereira, Conceicao Camarotti, Jesuita Barbosa, Charles Paraventi, Enrique Diaz, Leandro Firmino, Gisele Froes, Andre Ramiro, Magdale Alves, Maria Eduarda Lima Botelho, Jose Dumont, Christiane Amanpour 
    Director: Stephen Daldry 
    Screenwriter: Richard Curtis, based on the novel by Andy Mulligan 
    Producers: Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Kris Thykier 
    Executive producers: Bel Berlinck, Andrea Barata Ribeiro, Fernando Meirelles, Amelia Granger, Liza Chasin 
    Director of photography: Adriano Goldman 
    Production designer: Tule Peak 
    Costume designer: Bia Salgado 
    Editor: Elliot Graham 
    Composer: Antonio Pinto


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