Directed by Felipe Lacerda & Jose Padilha
On July 12, 2000, a young homeless man named Sando took hostage a bus carrying 11 people on a busy Rio de Janeiro street. Because of the police force’s ineptitude, the area around the bus was never secured and TV reporters were able to place their cameras within just a few yards, broadcasting the entire ordeal live. Bus 174 creates an astounding account by combining this footage with interviews done after the fact.
Like The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, another extraordinary documentary from South America, Bus 174 shows scenes you can’t believe you’re seeing: close-ups of the hostage-taker holding a gun to a women’s head, a police chief standing no more than a few feet from the bus, S.W.A.T. teams getting into position as bystanders watch. The film reaches its climax with an incredible slow-motion shot.
If this were merely an account of a hostage drama, the film would still be riveting. But Bus 174 digs deeper, exploring why the young man provoked the crisis in the first place and why the police had such a difficult time resolving it. Though the movie is more sympathetic to the gunman than some viewers might appreciate, this balanced approach makes for an emotionally compelling drama. We worry for the hostages, but we also come to know Sando and his sad history.
The opening helicopter shot, which tracks the bus’ normal route, highlights the enormous economic division in Rio. By situating a hostage drama within a larger class setting, the movie forces the audience to see the story as more than just a spectacle of crime.