Some movies astound me. Beasts of No Nation, for example, manages to be both beautiful and brutal at the same time. Its protagonist, both innocent and guilty at the same time while another man is a charming monster.
Beasts of No Nation is a movie of ugly contradictions, but the one thing that it makes perfectly clear is that, in war, no one makes it out unscathed.
This is one powerful movie, a bold and effective nightmare told through the eyes of a young boy who, after his family is separated and slaughtered during a civil war in Africa, becomes a reluctant solder in the conflict. The movie is vague on where it’s happening, but to be honest, I actually found this to be a more inclusive move for people who aren’t that familiar with the news from Africa – myself included. Honestly, this movie could have taken place anywhere: South America, Asia, an unnamed island, the United States in the future… it didn’t matter.
What matters is that Beasts of No Nation tells a brutal story of a child turned soldier and how his innocence is lost in many different ways. The way this story is told is traumatic and the movie does not shy away from the trauma. Agu, the little boy, becomes an angel-faced killer who uses drugs to escape his situation. A number of horrible things happen to this kid. It’s heartbreaking.
Newcomer Abraham Attah has the movie placed firmly on his shoulders and he carries it magnificently. I honestly hope this is not the last we see of this talented young man.
Idris Elba, however, steals the show as the Commandant, the before-mentioned “charming monster” who’s commanding and charismatic ways drive the soldiers and young Agu before him. Elba runs the show when he’s on screen and makes the Commandant a force to be reckoned with… another reason I have to show respect to young Attah who manages to keep up with Elba wonderfully.
What I liked most about this movie is that it is stripped of politics and messages and focuses solely on the plight of Agu which becomes more and more engrossing the more and more hopeless it becomes.
Beasts of No Nation is a triumph of a movie and quite an accomplishment for Netflix given that the last original movie I saw them do was The Ridiculous Six and that movie made me want to gouge out my eyes and bleach the sockets.
In some ways, I sort of which that Beasts of No Nation could have been a little more brutal and gone a little further with Agu’s decent into horror and war, but as it is, it’s still a very strong and consuming motion picture.