Brazilian film 7 Prisoners depicts how young men from small villages are deceived into forced labor in the name of employment. Directed by Alexandre Moratto, the film explores the horrors of human trafficking and modern slavery in South American countries.
7 Prisoners centers on a protagonist who becomes a slave to his employer’s wishes to survive. But in the pursuit of finding an escape, the hero gets infected with similar greed. The journey symbolizes that greed spares no one, and in the end, we all become slaves to richness and luxury.
‘7 Prisoners’ Plot Summary
Eighteen-year-old Mateus (Christian Malheiros) lives with his mother, Ana, and two sisters, Odete and Cirlene, in a small house at the edge of Ariranha. Ana works day and night on the farm to provide food for her kids. Mateus wants to become an engineer, but he takes a low-paying job at a junkyard in São Paulo to support his family.
A broker, Gilson, arranged the job for Mateus and his friend from the same village, Samuel. Two other friends, Ezequiel and Isaque, join them, and the lads from Catanduva reach São Paulo. Gilson takes them to a secluded junkyard and introduces them to their new employer, Luca (Rodrigo Santoro). The boys get settled in a room behind the junkyard. Luca teaches them to remove the copper from the rubber casing and segregate stainless steel from the scrap.
After one week of laborious tasks, Mateus demands their pay. Luca informs them that he has already paid an advance to their families. He reveals that he has incurred heavy expenses on their transport, room, and food, and they owe him a debt. He is not obliged to pay them until and unless they clear their debts. Luca even takes away their mobile phones as collateral.
Later that night, the four of them try to run away. But Luca turns the junkyard into a fenced prison and points a gun at them. Isaque tries to escape, but two police officers bring him back. Luca threatens that if they ever think of deserting him, he will make sure that his police friend Batista pays a visit to their respective families. Their family will face the consequences of their actions, and in fear, the four decide to follow the master’s wishes.
Falling Prey To One’s Greed
Mateus knew that he couldn’t deal with Luca with force. Hence, he used his wits against him. He cracked a deal with Luca and convinced him to free them after his debts were paid. Luca agreed, and Mateus speculated that they would be free from his clutches in 6 months.
As the days went by, Luca got fond of Mateus and tested his loyalty throughout. After Luca was certain that Mateus wouldn’t betray him, he offered him the position of right-hand man. Luca took Mateus out to buy some more slaves from the market. At this point, the 7 Prisoners explored the horrors of human trafficking in Brazil. Luca told Mateus that his boss, Bianchi, ran the network. Bianchi was an affluent politician. Mateus understood that it was impossible to run away from these men, and all he could do to survive and protect his family was to abide by their wishes.
Luca sold two girls to a brothel and paid a hefty commission to Mateus, which made him more than happy. He brought three more prisoners to the junkyard, bringing the total count to seven. Luca handed over their responsibilities to Mateus. He tried to revolt because it was against his conscience to rule men in cages. Luca explained to Mateus that he had seen his fancy magazines and knew about his dream of becoming a pilot or an engineer. But in the real world, these fancy jobs aren’t for people who were raised in poverty.
Mateus didn’t try to deny the reality of his life. The next day, when he called his mother, she sounded extremely happy. Luca had sent her the four grand, and their financial situation had improved. Mateus felt the power of money, and it slowly transformed him into the person he once hated. In the end, Mateus became Luca and betrayed his fellow mates.
‘7 Prisoners’ Ending Explained
Luca’s boss, Bianchi, ran a political campaign that said he was the country’s future. Symbolic enough, given that Bianchi was running a network of human trafficking and forced labor that was relegating the country to the dark ages. Nevertheless, Bianchi commanded Luca to leave the junkyard and attend the campaign’s daily operations.
Mateus asked Luca if he would liberate his friends too. Luca revealed that he was never going to let them go, but he was fond of Mateus. Thus, he offered Mateus to leave with him. On their way to the junkyard, Mateus met Luca’s mother and his family. They looked happy, and their happiness changed Mateus’ heart. He wanted the same smile on his mother’s face someday. When they returned to the junkyard, Mateus’ best friend, Samuel, tried to run. Mateus caught him and brought him back to the prison.
While catching Samuel, Mateus became extremely aggressive and grabbed Samuel’s neck. He feared that if Samuel ran away, his plans to earn luxury for his mother would be ruined forever. Luca later told Mateus that it was either him or them. Mateus had a difficult choice to make. He had to choose between a friend and his future. Mateus chose his future and called Batista to visit Samuel’s home. He threatened Samuel’s mother and sent a picture. Samuel saw his mother’s photo and looked at the transformed Mateus. He knew that his friend had been eaten up by greed.
The following morning, Samuel burned Mateus’s arm with a cigarette. Soon, Mateus and Luca left the junkyard, and Rodiney took over. Mateus sat in the car and saw the burnt mark on his arm. He knew that he had burnt all the bonds and friendships he once had. From now on, Mateus was a completely different man.
7 Prisoners is a 2021 Crime Drama film directed by Alexandre Moratto. It is streaming on Netflix.