Kids with guns. So this is about a young African child (Abraham Attah) who loses his family. There are a number of children without parents in this unnamed country, and one commandant (Idris Elba) recruits them to become soldiers, with the intention of not only fighting battles with them, but winning. I really think this movie will be looked back upon as a game changer, and it has very little to do with the movie itself. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a beautiful film, and I will touch upon that in just a moment, but this is going to be remembered for changing the business model of theatrically released films. Coinciding with a limited theatrical release, this got released immediately for streaming on Netflix, which is noteworthy because this film is a worthwhile Oscar contender, and people want to see it (it’s only been 12 days, and it has been reported that it currently has over 3 million views in North America alone). It really is the route that I feel films of this ilk are destined towards; the smaller, more personal films will make big splashes on the home market, while the bigger blockbusters with the scope of a spectacle will continue to rule the theater chains.
When I call this film beautiful, I am referring to the way it is shot. If you worked up the nerve to brave Oscar winner 12 Years a Slave, it’s gorgeous in the same way. It doesn’t invigorate you in the manner that City of God does, it horrifies you like Hotel Rwanda. The subject matter is as disturbing as ever, and it is made exponentially worse when you take into account that this is about children. You get introduced to little Agu, and while he is in war-torn Africa, he is still just a rascally child, getting into your typical mischief. Even throughout the ambushes and the violence, you never forget that these are children, which is both disturbing and mentally taxing. That said, it is easy to see why these orphaned kids are drawn to this lifestyle, which brings us to the biggest star of this film: Idris Elba. He is playing this monster of a man, but he also provides these adolescents with the family system that they crave. Elba delivers a powerful performance that speaks for itself, and it is one that demands to be seen, whether it be on the big screen or the small screen.
This is a horrific movie that is a lot to deal with. Even though it isn’t based on a true story, it feels all too real, and I’m sure events of this nature do happen all the time in Africa. It is directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga of True Detective fame (he directed the entirety of the first season), and he has the knack for getting some breathtaking shots. It’s something that you should definitely check out, but just go in prepared that you are about to take in something that is awfully hard to watch.
Beasts of No Nation (2015) ****1/2
– Critic for Hire
Want to see where this fell in my list of best films of the 2015? See for yourself here.