Beasts of No Nation is a bleak and thoroughly awful film to sit through, but it’s also one of the best of this year. It’s a great first crack at a feature-length movie for Netlfix, which saw the film hit its streaming service at the same time as its limited release in theaters. It’s a shame that more people saw this movie on Netflix because this thing is made for the big screen. One of the few criticisms of this movie isn’t really one at all. The movie is difficult to sit through for the same reason people skip out on the portion of the news that talks about Syria, Iraq or other war zones around the world. The value in sitting though this is that it expresses a bleak truth about the plight of child soldiers that is rarely expressed and that kind of honesty is rare and very difficult to pull off. It’s not a factual truth for this is a dramatization of the novel Beasts of No Nation by Uzodinma Iweala published in 2005, but a philosophical one expressed with the nuance and subtlety that the subject matter demands. The movie tells the story of child soldiers in an unnamed African Country and given the subject, there is a built-in sense of moral outrage that could easily be exploited by the filmmaker. While the violence in Beasts of No Nation is visceral and brutal enough to be unforgettable, it’s a testament to the visual sense of director Cary Joji Fukunaga that it never feels gratuitous. He just puts things together in a way that makes you watch it even when every part of you doesn’t want to. It helps that he got a pair of outstanding performances from Abraham Attah who plays the young protagonist Agu and Idris Elba whose role as the vile and charismatic Commandant may net him an Oscar nomination. Agu is a particularly difficult role because he’s not a child born into conflict, but one that led a stable life before having all of that seized from him. To be able to display innocence when appropriate then turn around and play a child forced to become an adult so fast and under such duress requires quite a range and it shouldn’t be understated how good Attah is in this movie. On the other side is the Commandant, who is responsible for a battalion of child soldiers. The character could have easily become a flat one-dimensional villain that serves as focal point for audience hate, but the character is not so cut and dry. Part of that is the writing, which sets him up as a cult leader of sorts that recruits displaced children into his army by playing himself off as their surrogate father. He is opportunistic and sick in the worst way, but Elba played the character with such charisma that it’s possible to understand where he is coming from. Their performances contribute to a sense of progression that gives meaning to the senseless violence depicted throughout Beasts of No Nation. Agu’s personal tragedy is set up perfectly by the looming threat of war lurking in the background of his normal family life. The way Commandant indoctrinates the children to follow him unequivocably makes those moments when he orders them into battle emotionally affecting. The movie maintains a sense of tension throughout that forces you to sit through it. The movie leaves you weary by the end, tired of watching terrible things happen to the ones that least deserve it. There is not a whole lot to feel good about in the end, nor anything that can be done to fix what has happened; Beasts of No Nation simply expresses the way things are. It’s uncomfortable, but a great film is not obligated to coddle the one watching. Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.