Beasts of No Nation tells the story of a young boy, Agu played by Abraham Attah, who witnesses his father and brother killed and, whist fleeing, comes across a group of soldiers, rebels, in this unnamed African country.
Initially a scared little boy, Agu has no choice but to grow up quickly as the commander, played by Idris Elba who also produces, takes a shine to him, which is not a good thing. As the war continues this rag-tag, well-armed army grows in numbers and they move through the country, killing and witnessing things no young boys should.
This is a no-holds barred film, nothing is off limits. As well as the bleakness of war, you have a commander who seems to have his way with the child soldiers, drug-taking and some prostitution thrown in for good measure.
Having said that, this doesn’t feel like a dark film the way the Nolan Batman films were, nor does it feel gritty or hard hitting. The colours are bright and vibrant at times, particularly in one scene when the brutality of the soldiers is masked-somewhat with a filter that lightens the whole scene.
The acting is brilliant, first-timer Attah is superb, his voice-over telling the story and the pain on his face all to obvious. And, towards the end when the UN step in, how much this young-boy has grown up is stark and sad to see.
Idris is fine as the Commandant, he believes the group he has are his family. He believes he’s doing the best for them, he names Agu his son, saying he reminds of himself when he was younger. There’s a certain hint / mix of Apocalypse Now though I’d never be so bold as to say it compares. Just, as with Apocalypse Now, Elba’s Commandant goes a little crazy at the end, the troop digging for gold and running out of bullets before deciding to leave him behind.
Writer / Director Cary Joji Fukunaga has nothing to prove having already brought us Sin Nombre and True Detective and with this he’s shown he has a fantastic eye as well as some excellent writing ability, definitely one to keep an eye on for his next venture.
Beasts of No Nation is available on Netflix now.