Bus 174 (2002)

Another reason why public transportation isn’t always ideal.

It’s the year 2000 and Sandro do Nascimento walks on a bus without any clear destination in sight. What he really wants to do and why he’s on this bus is so that he can take the gun out of his pocket and hold everyone aboard hostage for however long he decides. His end-game? Money, of course. But why would he ever commit such a senseless and awful task like kidnapping and ransom? Well, therein lies the question and there’s an answer to that, but with the whole world watching at home, it’s not time for answers.

Bus 174 is one of those rare movies where one can say that, “it’s about this one thing, but really, it’s about so much more”, and it totally makes sense and doesn’t feel like snobbery. In a way, yes, it’s about this insane and challenged dude who holds up a bus for nearly four hours, gets into a stand-off with police, and oh yeah, has it all broadcast on live television. That’s what the movie is presented to us, at first, but in reality, it’s about so, so much more.

We don’t want to, but oh well.

Surprisingly, it’s about this individual, where he’s come from, why he is the way he is, why he decided to do what he did, and most importantly, how he actually was during the kidnapping itself. It sounds simple enough, for a documentary no less, but trust me, it gets better. Sooner than later, Bus 174 becomes more about the criminal himself, and the society in which he was brought up in, why there is so much crime in such a place like Brazil, the lower-class, the politicians, the law enforcement, the corruption, the sex, the drugs, the booze, the madness, the insanity, the violence, and above all else, the death.

Lots and lots of that, actually.

Women and children first, bro! Follow the kidnapping guidelines at least!

And this is why co-directors José Padilha and Felipe Lacerda truly come up with something beautiful, sad, disturbing, and also interesting at the same time: They are able to present this story at face-value, but dig deeper than meets the eye. The movie never fully comes circle in making us understand this person more, but it does have us understand the culture/society in which a person like him could be brought up in and why he would ever decide to commit such an act. Bus 174 doesn’t want us to forgive and forget this man, but by the same token, doesn’t want us to forgive and forget Brazil, its corruption, its lies, and what it does to its lower-class citizens.

If anything, Bus 174 is the kind of documentary that is exactly why documentaries are made in the first place. They are meant to inform, of course, but they’re also meant to be some form of journalism, as crooked as some of it can get; digging deeper, realizing there’s more than meets-the-eyes, and most importantly, figuring out the truth, is what these kinds of movies are all about. It also helps here, though, that Bus 174 is entertaining and purely compelling, never putting us in the right frame of mind of what to expect next, where this story is going to lead to, and give you all the twists and turns that could only come from real life.

And thankfully, it did.

Consensus: Smart, compelling, even-handed, exciting, scary, sad, and at times, frighteningly beautiful, Bus 174 is the rare documentary that checks all of the boxes, but also goes the extra mile.

9 / 10

Just another normal day on public transpo. Have a good day.

Photos Courtesy of: ThinkFilm Inc

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