Beasts of No Nation (2015)
Starring: Abraham Attah, Idris Elba, Emmanuel Affadzi, Ricky Adelayitor, Opeyemi Fagbohungbe
Directed By: Cary Joji Fukunaga
Written By: Cary Joji Fukunaga
Rating: UR (US) Running Time: 2 hr 17 min
Beasts of No Nation follows Abu (Abraham Attah), a young boy separated from his family after his village is attacked. He is subsequently picked up by members of the rebel Native Defense Force, led by their Commandant (Idris Elba), and added to their gang of children warriors.
The journey Abu takes is a brutal one, and Cary Joji Fukunaga’s commanding control of this subject matter (based on a book by Uzodinma Iweala), doesn’t pull any punches. Abu is told his childhood must die before he can be a member of the NDF, and his corruption is spurred along by horrific demonstrations of barbaric behavior, drug fueled spiritual nonsense, and sexual abuse.
Abraham Attah’s performance (his first) is the main reason Beasts of No Nation is as good as it is. His character’s journey sees innocence lost, and a child warrior born. And there are several powerful moments in this film that show us the painful stages in this transformation which, while expected, still resonate because of Abraham’s performance. Idris Elba is also very effective as his brigade’s Commandant. A father figure and spiritual leader, and very convincing as the kind of man who inspires his followers to commit acts of barbarity.
The only complaint I have about Beast of No Nation is due to its running time. At over two hours long, the film occasionally labors on its points a little too much. And while a lot of that time is put to great use, I felt this production could easily have been under two hours, and still be just as effective – perhaps even more so.
This is brutal and beautiful at the same time. Quite violent in places, and while unrated, should be considered an R.
Beasts of No Nation was released through Netflix’s streaming channel, and a very limited number of theaters. Cary Joji Fukunaga’s cinematography is superb, and would be best served in a movie theater. At home a HD screening on a TV is your next best option. A screening on a portable device is not recommended.
Best Moment: << mild spoiler >>
Abu’s brigade attack a convoy, and a single survivor is bound and presented to Abu to kill. A scene like this was expected as part of Abu’s journey to become a warrior, but it’s still very effective, and brutally realized.