Thursday, October 22, 2015

[Review] Beasts of No Nation

Writer/Director Cary Joji Fukunaga is mostly known for his "True Detective" work, but his talents broke out back in 2009 with Sin Nombre--a harrowing tale about immigrants and MS-13 gangs in Central America. His newest project (and first Netflix Original Film) Beasts of No Nation is a brutal African Civil War story, and it's right in line with the rest of his challenging filmography.

"Our country is at war," a small boy named Agu (Abraham Attah) states. He and his friends are attempting to sell a TV without a screen--a visual symbol for how impossible the circumstances are in his West African village. Eventually, Agu gets separated from his mother, and his father and brother are killed by bullet fire, so he's left to fend for himself. That is, until he happens upon a group of young rebels led by Idris Elba (the character goes nameless) and they transform him into a child soldier.

The tragedy of the events doesn't need any explanation. And as you've guessed, this is a very heavy and difficult-to-watch story, even thought it's all rendered through stunningly vivid and crisp cinematography. The unfortunate realities play out like an ugly trudge through despair with atrocity after atrocity. The violence is uncompromising, and there are some horrific situations to witness.

The well-chosen first time actor Abraham Attah is very impressive at the center of it all, as everything is told through his eyes. Then there's Idris Elba, who has been a prolific force (and new James Bond hopeful *fingers crossed*) on big screens and small screens. He's commanding in this role, and if the pool isn't too crowded he might just land himself an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor as this nastily ruthless character. Any award talks at all is a stirring feat for a film that you could watch from your home before it hit limited theaters (if even that).

There seriously aren't many things more heartbreaking than to see what these young and initially innocent kids go through. There's a devastatingly telling line that Agu says during one of the film's all is lost moments: "If this war is ever ending, I cannot go back to doing child things." And yet, the film leaves us with a slight glimmer of hope. A very slight one.

* 8.5/10 *

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