Read the Review by Keith Cheatham
Movies can be many things, a form of escape, entertainment, and fun. Something to scare you, or make you laugh. Every good movie tells a story, which is why we as people are drawn to them, because for as long as there's been man, man has been telling stories. Sometimes films strive to tell a message, some films take up a cause, or simply strive to tell a story we as humanity may gloss over, but should be aware of. Films can be fun or whimsical, but sometimes they are serious and a heavy affair. So it is with Beasts of No Nation.
Directed by Cary Fukanaga, Beasts Of No Nation, a film adapted from the novel of the same name, tells the story of young Agu, played by Abraham Attah, a child living in a small village in west Africa in the midst of a civil war. Agu watches as his town is besieged and friends and family are murdered, leaving Agu orphaned. This is where the bulk of the story takes place, as Agu is found by a commandant of a rebel army, played by Idris Elba. Who trains him to be a child soldier to fight for the rebels against what Elba’s character paints to be a corrupt government. The film doesn't take sides on which party is right or wrong in this civil war, but instead shows the horrors of war in the eyes of a child soldier. Trained to commit atrocities that would haunt even an adult man his entire life, Beasts Of No Nation holds nothing back, and is a depressing macabre affair.
To say this film is intense is an understatement. Fukanaga doesn't just create the typical war film, he presents every horror imaginable, each worse than the last. While this is not a film for the faint of heart, it is however done as tastefully as I feel possible when displaying content of such graphic nature, with some of the more graphic content implied and done off camera. With excellent cuts and camera work the movie is filmed with care to emphasize these horrors, without pushing it to complete unbearableness. That is not to say it doesn't display fully graphic things. It does, but this is in the nature of the story, to display the childhood and humanity lost to these children, and even after it is all said and done, can they ever move on and have a normal life. Will they ever belong anywhere other than the fields of war after all they've lost?
A lot of praise has been given to Elba for his role, and he deserves all of it. Bringing to life the cruelty and heaviness of the commandant character, yet portraying a fathering figure in the character’s own sick manipulative way. Much praise however, should also be given to Abraham Attah. Child actors are often difficult to work with, and hard to get a good performance out of, but Attah does an excellent job portraying Agu, the child soldier lost in the horrors of war. Through Attah’s expressions we see the horrors slowly eating away his innocence and his doubt of where he belongs and what is right anymore.
Over all the film is excellent, yet difficult to watch. While one could argue how necessary the graphic content is to get the message across, it does achieve the message it strives to make, without becoming too heavy handed in the process. With lighter moments to keep it getting too dark to fast towards the first half of the film, but abandoned completely in the later half, Beasts of No Nation is not a film to take on lightly, yet worth the watch if you have the stomach for it.
I give Beasts of No Nation 3.5 out of 4 stars.