Quick Hit: Fierce and unwavering in its execution, but continues on a bit longer than is necessary.
Beasts of No Nation is a film currently available for streaming on Netflix. It details the stories of a young boy named Agu in an unnamed African country (that shares a striking resemblance to the Democratic Republic of Congo) as he moves from victim to child soldier and so on. It’s one of the films that put Idris Elba (The Mountain Between Us, Dark Tower) on the map as a powerful force in film, due to his role as Commandant. It’s written and directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga (of True Detective Fame).
I think the first thing that needs to be discussed is that the film is harsh. It has no issue portraying the slaughter of innocents in graphic, unflinching detail. Many of the rebel forces in this film are children, and a large part of the story is that Agu’s family is murdered and his only way to survive is within the relative comfort of the family of soldiers. However, in order to prove himself, he has to murder someone else with a machete. As I said – it’s a rough film.
The storytelling throughout is good though. In order to transition the story from a young boy losing his family to a young boy becoming a man is tough enough, but to through in the fact that he must survive by becoming a soldier is harder still. Fukunaga manages it deftly, mainly through some visual storytelling techniques and time lapses that allow us to skip to when Agu is a man. He does take some swings that miss – in particular there is some hallucgenic coloring in one scene I disliked, but overall the story is told well.
The highlight of this film is by far Idris Elba as The Commandant. His rich voice fills him with authority even during conversations between two parties. He stands alone throughout the film very often, but just as often serves as a father figure for the child soldiers. This façade gets torched when you see some of his regular activities though – it’s disturbing that so much of this is based on true occurrences. But even as you watch his world fall apart, The Commandant still manages to serve as a tragic figure, torn by the war that he has fought so hard in.
I really don’t have that much else to say about this film. It’s powerful and I’d warn those with more sensitive constitutions to pause before pressing play. Other than that, I’d give it a “B-“.
For more on this film, check out IMDB.
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"