Film Review: Beasts of No Nation

Monday 7 December 2015 by

Beasts of No Nation, Netflix, Film, Idris Elba, Abraham Attah

There was a bit of a stir when Netflix commissioned the brutal film Beasts of No Nation. It tells the story of Agu (played by Abraham Attah) who, upon escaping the army as they kill his family, is taken up by a group of rebels and is taught to kill and ransack.

There have been lots of films about this kind of thing before – civil wars in African countries using children to fight. But this seeks to tell a different story; not those fleeing the conflict, but someone who is involved deeply and irrevocably. Agu is enraptured by the charismatic commandant (Idris Elba), and buries himself deeper and deeper in to the darkness for his love and attention.

This film is beautifully shot – contrasting the brutality and bloodiness of the civil war with the beauty of the jungle around it. There is little to no music – relying instead on the songs the soldiers sing. The film is cut in to three parts – the before, the war, and the after. They are starkly different in their telling, and that makes the viciousness all the worse, and the love all the more impressive.

I can’t really say that I loved this film – it is too dark for that – but I can certainly say that I was impressed by it. It feels different from the other films of the same ilk, it feels more honest. Attah is young but an impressive lead, balanced perfectly between the inhuman and the child. I was struck by his performance more than Elba’s in many ways.

This is not for the faint hearted – it is uncompromising and bloody. There is something all the more upsetting watching young children subjected to violence and drugs and rape (and often inflicting it elsewhere). But Netflix have proven their worth in films now as well as television series, and I expect to see more in the future. But Beasts of No Nation is a powerful film, full of perfectly balanced acting, beautiful countryside and a complex and heartbreaking story.

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