Marighella Review: This Portuguese Film Is Brutally And Disturbingly Entertaining

Marighella is based in Brazil of the 1960s and there are wildly impetuous men fighting military dictatorship. Calling themselves true patriots Marighella (Seu Jorge) and his band of incredibly brave men wage a battering-ram war against the despotic militia

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Marighella Review: This Portuguese Film Is Brutally And Disturbingly Entertaining


I will be honest. I was stunned by the torture scenes in this epic film. The closest parallel  I can think of is  Vetrimaaran’s vicious  Tamil masterpiece Visaranai where men are tortured to near-death in police interrogation for petty crimes or a confession of them, the truth be damned. In Marighella ( if you play around with the title it sounds aptly like ‘mar-gela’ in Hindi) the cause is much bigger than a  snatched gold chain. Here the country is at stake. This is Brazil in the 1960s and these are wildly impetuous men fighting military dictatorship. Calling themselves true patriots Marighella (Seu Jorge) and his band of incredibly brave men wage a battering-ram war against the despotic militia. Brazil in this ultra-violent films resembles  Sicily in the  Godfather.

I have absolutely no quibbles with the drama and its portrayal of civil conflict in the context of a tyrannical regime. What troubles me is that the tyranny is embodied in one personification of evil, an unfathomably sadistic cop named Lucio (Bruno Gagliasso) who seems to derive great pleasure in torturing political prisoners to death, prolonging their torture to breaking point. For us the audience, that is.

In one of the later sequences when one of Miraghella’s closest comrades Jorge (Jorge Paz) is captured the torture is so extensively brutal that I  had to look away.  Bloody revolutions are not for the weak-hearted. Neither is this film. It doesn’t spare us the violence that underlines all opposition to military regimes. But I must confess the regime in this film remains largely faceless and violent while the rebels are perpetually valorous patriotic courageous and even funny individuals.


The jokes about Marighella’s wig never end. And his sense of humour never deserts him even as his rebellious army dwindles. My favourite non-violent sequence is the one where  Marighella tells his priest-comrade that he wants him to sleep with an army general’s wife to extract information from her. As the priest’s face turns ashen, Miraghella burst out laughing. To the film’s credit, the family life of some of the rebels is well etched into the blueprint violence. But honestly, what remains with us is the endless bloodshed and brutality, all in the name of political freedom. It is freedom hard-earned. But worth it.  That’s not exactly how I felt about the film. Although the fights are impressively choreographed they belong to gangster cinema.

Narcos actor Wagner Moura turns director with a stylish action thriller with shootouts on streets and in a movie theatre dominating the drama. I am not too sure how much of this is history. But it makes one helluva riveting yarn full of sound and fury, hopefully signifying something. The performances are magnetic, but only when the actors are killing or getting killed. And therein lies the problem.

Directed by Wagner Moura, Marighella gets 3 and a half stars! 




Image Source: Instagram/mariamarighella, youtube/ingresso.com