‘Beasts of No Nation’ addresses a sadly still relevant and tragic issue. Child soldiers. This is an unflinching look at how child soldiers are created and the motivation they are given to become one.
The first time I found out about the existence of child soldiers was when many years ago I watched ‘Blood Diamond’ for the first time. There are only a few scenes showing this culture but it still had a profound impact on me. I was shocked that child soldiers existed. It was an eye opening and terrifying moment for me. ‘Blood Diamond’ has nothing on ‘Beasts of No Nation’ though. The feature film was adapted from the novel of the same name by Uzodinma Iweala. Cary Joji Fukunaga knew this story needed to be told in a feature film and worked with the author adapting the novel into a screenplay. Cary Joji Fukunaga also took on the role of Director and went into harrowing and disturbing detail when adapting the novel. This is not a film for the faint of heart but should still be seen nonetheless due to its message, relevance and importance.
Agu (Abraham Attah) goes from having a loving family and community around him to nothing. The film dedicated more time than I would have expected to this time but rightly so as when it is taken from him, you have been given long enough to care about these characters so when he loses them you feel that loss. Agu runs away as fast as he can until he runs into the Commandant (Idris Elba) and his battalion. The commandant gives a Agu a purpose, a family and fuels in him a reason to fight against the enemy. You can understand why Agu would follow the Commandant. The Commandant is now Agu’s father figure who cares and loves him from Agu’s perspective. Agu has gone from having nothing to something to live and fight for. The lines of good and evil are completely grey. There is just people trying to survive and doing what is necessary to do that. The journey that Agu takes from having fun as a child to a cold blooded killer is as heartbreaking as it is understandable due to the loss and atrocities he witnesses.
The cinematography in this film is gorgeous. It was shot in Africa and it pays off. The landscape is both breathtaking and visceral, and because you are following Agu the whole time and the lens used is so crystal clear it almost feels like a documentary which is very effective. The camera is very free and hardly noticeable to be on a track so you feel like you are there holding the camera as the events transpire.
The music for this film is spot on. Whether it’s emotion or tension that the scene is conveying the music does a great job of amping that up so you really feel it.
Now let’s talk about the leading duo that makes me feel appalled they were overlooked by the Oscars. This is the best performance I have seen from Idris Elba and I think he does a terrific job in ‘Luther’ but he really takes it up a notch here. I’m not an accent expert but his accent worked really well and felt natural to me. He’s so magnetic, charming and inspiring on screen that you really feel the passion and bloodlust he is fuelling into these kids. He does a great job of humanising and empathising with a character that could have easily been a one dimensional stereotypical warlord character.
Make no mistake here though. Abraham Attah as Agu steals the show. What this young actor achieves is awe-inspiring and must have been a really complex role for such a your actor to portray. Just from his facial expressions I felt his emotions and understood his motivations for what he was doing. He portrays the emotional turmoil that Age experiences throughout the film so well. Abraham Attah says he does want to act again and I am really excited to see what comes next from this amazingly talented actor.
‘Beasts of No Nation’ is an extremely hard watch but one of the few important films in 2015 that must be seen. Idris Elba, Abraham Attah and the supporting cast do an incredible job of making you feel the brutal realism of this world. The film doesn’t feel exploitative for awards at all and is genuinely set on telling a story that is unfortunately still taking place as you read this. I am so happy it has received such a great reception and created a big dissuasion because this is a hard film to sell. You will not enjoy watching this film but it is without a doubt one of the most necessary films that has been made this decade.
You can view the trailer underneath and you can watch it right now on Netflix. Please watch it and comment with your thoughts.