Beasts of No Nation  is the heartbreaking tale of Agu (Abraham Attah), the most adorable child soldier you’ve ever seen, as he is thrust into an intense civil war in a fictional African country. Under the direction of the cruel and self-serving Commandant (Idris Elba), Agu becomes a killer and loses his innocence, and himself, in the process.
True Detective to True Perspective. Get it? Because they rhyme. You know what, nevermind! Cary Fukanaga (True Detective season 1, Jane Eyre) wrote, shot, and directed the film and it would be hard not say that he is not one of the hottest up-and-coming directors out there. His technical prowess is superb with wonderful staging, stunning cinematography, and very realistic mise-en-scene. The film takes place mostly outdoors and the locations are impressively war-ravaged, especially considering the small budget. He brings back a few long takes that he is now famous for after his Emmy-winning work on True Detective and there is one in particular that straight-up dazzles. Not only is it more impressive than the True Detective one, it feels natural and doesn’t draw unnecessary attention to itself. Another trippy scene sees the earthy color palette shift into hot pinks, partially to show the reaction to a drug and possibly working as an homage to Richard Mosse.
*Tasteless reference to “African Child” by Infant Sorrow* The performances in the film are truly wonderful, with Idris Elba becoming an immediate contender for Best Supporting Actor award. The show is thoroughly stolen by Abraham Attah, however. He absolutely crushes it in his first acting role EVER! His transition from a fun young boy into hardened, unfeeling killer is subtle and heart-wrenching. There is a scene at the very end that totally blew me away. His maturity is beyond his years and I want this kid in every movie ever from now on. I’d be a fool not to mention Emmanuel Nii Adom Quaye as Strika, as well. He kills it in a silent but memorable role. He says literally nothing, but you still feel like you know him and become attached to Strika.
A little bit cold. There are two super emotional scenes in the film, and while they work well, it seemed like they could have been done in a way that really devastated the audience emotionally. These scenes brought the tears, but they felt a little detached from the horrible things happening on-screen. I feel hypocritical for saying that they could be better without offering up ways they could be, but there’s a reason I’m writing about films and not out there making them. This is not an easy film to watch. It’s harrowing, disturbing, and emotionally draining. But for as much as I liked the child characters, I don’t feel like the film allowed me to feel as much for them as possible.
Good on ya, Netflix! Thank you Netflix for buying the distribution rights for this film! Rarely do we get films like this, especially in the mainstream. While this is an artsy, small-scale independent film, the publicity of it being Netflix’s first “original movie” will hopefully bring in an audience that wouldn’t normally see such a film.
Familiar subject matter but excellent execution. An immediate awards contender.