In no way is Beasts of No Nation a movie for everyone. It’s a grueling, gripping look on some of the harsher truths of the world that we live in. It holds nothing back in showing the horrors of war and the things people will do for their beliefs. Along with that, we’re forced to follow the life of a young kid who, due to his situation, has to become a ruthless killer. It’s not an easy film to sit through. But writer-director-cinematographer Cary Joji Fukunaga creates a film that you can’t look away from, creating a film that you just can’t look away from.
Agu (Abraham Attah) lives in an unnamed war-torn African country with his older brother, younger siblings, and both his parents. Despite the war going on throughout the country, him and his family live what looks to be a nice life. His father is an influential member of the community, his mother takes care of him and the rest of the family, and his oldest brother just has girls on the mind. Because of the war, refugees begin to start pouring in to the town which then brings in the “rebels.” The rebels have one goal: to sniff out spies and kill them on sight. But everyone is a spy to the rebels which leads to the death of almost the whole village, including Agu’s father and brother.
Agu is able to make a run for it and escape, but is then captured by another group of people, one that opposes the government and attempts to fight against them. Led by the Commandant (Idris Elba), Agu is forced to join this group of young men and kids his age. This anti-government force doesn’t have much in clothing, not much food to eat, but what they do have is guns. Lots and lots of guns. The Commandant is an imposing, charismatic, terrifying human being who puts his trust in the kids that he surrounds himself with. He figures himself to be a father figure for all of these kids and they look up to him as such. The Commandant’s force is going strong throughout the country and they are brought in to meet with the Supreme Leader. From there, things take a turn and not in the way one would’ve expected.
Fukunaga clearly makes the conscious decision to not name which country his film is set in, what ideology is being preached or fought against, and what religions these people follow. The fact that everything is so general and vague may not give the audience something to relate with, but it also doesn’t leave them with something to oppose as well. Instead, we’re forced to judge these individuals by their decisions and their choices. What they do doesn’t just say a lot about them, but their decisions and how you view them says something about the audience as well.
There’s so much to like about Beasts of No Nation, but it’s such a tough movie to watch and sit through. It’s in no way your typical war drama as it shows a very specific kind of war that isn’t something you’ll see in Saving Private Ryan or Black Hawk Down. The best comparison to a war film I’d say would be The Thin Red Line, but that’s more the style than the actual content itself. The Thin Red Line is a beautiful film shot in a way only Terrence Malick could do it. Fukunaga brings about a Malick-esque visual style to Beasts which makes it one of the must see films of 2015. Once it hits theaters/Netflix, I absolutely expect that Beasts of No Nation will be a massive success and will end up becoming one of the must watch war related films to hit the big screen.
Beasts of No Nation is written and directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga and stars Abraham Attah, Idris Elba, Ama K. Abebrese, Grace Nortey, David Dontoh, and Opeyemi Fagbohungbe. Beasts of No Nation will be streaming on Netflix while having a limited release on October 16, 2015. Just a warning, the film is currently unrated as there is some nudity and some excessive gore.