By: Daniel Chadwick-Shubat
Brutal. Powerful. Brilliant. Funny. Heartwarming. Heartbreaking. These are words you don’t usually see together when describing a movie about child soldiers. Beasts of No Nation however is no normal beast. Somehow it let the audience feel all these emotions and create one of the most powerful films of the year.
Based on the book, Beasts of No Nation is written and directed by Cary Fukunaga, the amazing director behind the first season of True Detective (the out of this word season). This movie was 10 years in the making and it was 100% worth it. This is a movie that people need to see, so in a way it’s perfect that it’s a Netflix original, meaning it will reach well over 60 million people.
Beast of No Nation follows 9 year old Agu, a boy from a small African town. Played brilliantly by newcomer Abraham Attah, Agu is a character that we relate to at the start of the movie. An innocent young boy, who loves playing soccer with his friends and playing practical pranks with his brother on the village idiot. The big surprise of this movie was how heartwarming and funny the first 20 minutes of the movie are.
I went into the movie preparing for the worst, thinking this movie would be a brutal look at the child soldiers in Africa. It was… but only after 20 minutes of laughing and relating to Agu and his family. Then like a flick of a switch the movie’s tone completely changes, breaking the audience’s heart in the process.
Agu, trying to escape the violence of his hometown instead is caught in the middle of a battle between rebels and nationalists and is almost killed in the process. This is when we’re introduced to the Commandant, played by the suave Idris Elba. The Elba we see in Beasts of No Nation is completely different from anything we’ve ever seen him in before. He constantly toys with the audience’s feelings about him, at times inciting hate from the audience and other times love.
In other words he’s the perfect villain, and after seeing him in this I have no doubt he’s going to be a spectacular villain in Star Trek: Beyond. Another great part of Elba’s role is his African accent, which is so convincing (thanks in part to his rapping).
Vibrant colours and long tracking shots are constantly present throughout Beasts of No Nation and you can obviously see how much work director Cary Fukunaga put into the making of this film. It supposedly almost killed him (an accident on the set) and we see a lot of the characteristics in this movie as we did in the first season of True Detective. It was quite phenomenal seeing this movie in Agu’s perspective and it gave us something unlike anything in cinema this year.
But the highlight of this movie was without a doubt Abraham Attah’s performance as the troubled child soldier Agu. His performance was filled with a variety of emotions and considering he’s only 14 this was an amazing accomplishment. I would love to see him nominated for his performance because he thoroughly deserves it. He could be the male version of Quvenzhané Wallis and has a bright future ahead of him (as long as he doesn’t do a remake of Annie).
Ultimately a heartbreaking look at the problem of child soldiers in Africa, Netflix’s first original movie is a huge success and convinces me they have the right people behind the scenes to help them make more phenomenal original content. They’ve proved they mean business in TV and with Beasts of No Nation they could definitely come big this award season within the film world.
Backed by fantastic directing by Cary Fukunaga and great performances by its entire cast Beasts of No Nation is a must watch this year. I recommend you take 132 minutes and watch this tour de force of filmmaking.
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