Beasts of No Nation (2015)

Beasts of No Nation (2015)
  • Time: 137 min
  • Genre: Drama | War
  • Director: Cary Fukunaga
  • Cast: Idris Elba, Opeyemi Fagbohungbe, Richard Pepple


Follows the journey of a young boy, Agu, who is forced to join a group of soldiers in an unnamed West African country. While Agu fears his commander and many of the men around him, his fledgling childhood has been brutally shattered by the war raging through his country, and he is at first torn between conflicting revulsion and fascination Depicts the mechanics of war and does not shy away from explicit, visceral detail, and paints a complex, difficult picture of Agu as a child soldier.

One comment

  • (Rating: ☆☆☆½ out of 4)

    This film is highly recommended.

    In brief: Violent and brutal, the film exposes a difficult subject that needs to be addressed.

    GRADE: B+

    Agu is a survivor. His family torn apart due to political unrest in his war-torn African village, he is caught up in a violent civil war and later recruited into a warlord’s army in Cary Fukunaga’s brutal and riveting film, Beasts of No Nation.

    We moviegoers are thrown into this chaos almost immediately. We see the before and after of the casualties of war: a once innocent young boy and the product of a loving family slowly weaned into a role of a violent child soldier. This chilling transformation is shown in the graphic details: his brutal initiation into the tribal army, his sadistic training sessions, his first killing, tensely staged in one of the bloodiest sequence in years. This is a unsettling film, not for the squeamish. (Be forewarned: Although the violence is never gratuitous, it is still a non-stop assault on your senses. I couldn’t help but think if showing less would have had a more effective impact.)    

    Agu watches as the war escalates around him and he tries to comprehend its insanity. Psychologically indoctrinated into these acts of butchery by a crazed rebel leader, the Agu essentially loses his childhood innocence. It is a heart-wrenching series of events we witness and the film depicts these atrocities upfront and personal.

    Expertly written and directed by the talented Mr. Fukunaga (who also was the chief cinematographer as well), Beasts of No Nation is well-made but literally ultra-realistic in its execution. His vision is consistently strong and the director effectively shows the ravages of war with numerous in-your-face close-ups. The film’s earlier images of children playing with a discarded television set or sibling rivalry between brothers sharply contrasts with the many scenes of senseless carnage. Sometimes the film overloads on the combat and killings and overstates its case. Many of these scenes become derivative and are, at times, unwatchable due to their graphic nature.

    The acting between the two leads is exceptional. Idris Elba is excellent as the remorseless mercenary commandant, although one wishes there would be more character development into the makings of this monster. His interaction with first-time actor, Abraham Attah as Agu are so intense and believable. Attah, in his film debut, is outstanding in his sympathetic portrayal of the boy soldier. It is one of the most compelling and natural examples of acting ever given by a non-professional child actor.

    Shocking and powerful, Beasts of No Nation deserves to be seen. The subject may be disturbing, but it shows the evil that continues to fester in another part of the world. Serious cinephiles and Netflex subscribers, pay heed.

    Note: Premiering in movie theaters the same day as it was streamed to subscribers, Beasts of No Nation was produced and released by Netflix as their first project. This excellent film has been ceremoniously dumped and boycotted by major theatrical chains fearing this competitive practice to be the future of filmmaking. Movie theaters sabotaged any success the film may have had and, as punishment, the film never received any distribution, being sorely ignored. A sad state of affairs.

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