Written and directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga, “Beasts of No Nation” is based on a book of same name by Uzodinma Iweala, which focuses on the life of a child soldier.
The movie focuses on the story of Agu (Abraham Attah), a young boy from an unnamed African country who saw his family slaughtered amid a sudden outbreak of violence, and finds himself orphaned.
Agu flees to the forest where he’s captured by a battalion of child soldiers under the rule of a warlord, ‘The Commandant (Idris Elba), who saves and trains him to be an underground fighter.
In time, Agu is numbed by horror, and turns into a coldblooded killer set out for vengeance, as he and his fellow soldiers set out to destroy the military force that killed his people.
While The Commandant may seem like the film’s central character, he isn’t the soul of the movie, Agu is. Told from Agu’s point of view, the film is all about the harsh reality of war, and exposes the horrors of children fighting in war.
The movie does not excuse the children from the atrocities they commit, but it doesn’t miss to remind you that they’re children and also victims led by grown men.
The movie marked Attah’s debut movie, and it’s quite amazing knowing that he delivered such an outstanding debut performance without any formal training. He naturally brought the character to life, and you could feel the pain he was going through as he transformed from a naive child to a hardened killer. You could feel his every emotion – his insecure moments, his happy moments, his vengeful moments and all.
Idris Elba’s character as an intense and monstrous ‘Commandant’ is one worth applauding. The Commandant is a demonic father figure, a predator, a savior, scary and charismatic, all in one.
Idris did a great job speaking the Nigerian and Ghanaian-pidgin English, even when his UK accent finds a way to rear its head.
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There is also Striker, the unspeaking child soldier,who didn’t speak for once in the movie, but found a way to communicate his every emotions to the viewers. If you have seen the movie, then you obviously didn’t miss the guy who was nude all through the movie (can't exactly explain his role, but it went on to showcase how much these young soldiers go through).
Despite the movie’s seriousness, it still found a way to insert comedy through Agu and Commandant’s characters, making you laugh and forgetting for split seconds that you are watching a harsh, heartbreaking war movie.
The film is an emotional experience, and there are scenes that would leave you teary, example, Agu’s encounter with a wailing mother whom he mistakes for his own, his bonding scenes with Strika, who eventually becomes his only real friend, and the scene he lost Strika to death.
“Beasts of no Nation” isn’t an easy watch. It isn't for the faint hearted, but it’s an unmissable watch, one that is impossible to forget. A week after seeing the movie, you will be surprised at how much you can remember lines and scenes from the movie.
“Beasts of No Nation” is film that takes viewers through a 2-hour plus powerful and emotional journey, with outstanding performances from Idris Elba and Abraham Attah.