Review: Beasts of No Nation (2015)

By Sean Gardner

Beasts of No Nation is a Netflix distributed independent film is directed by Cary Fukunaga of True Detective fame and stars Abraham Atta and Idris Elba. Atta plays a boy of 11 years old named Agu. He and his family live in an appropriately unnamed west African country torn by civil war. The war surrounds Agu and his family. As the war threatens their small town, Agu’s mother and infant brother are sent away. Caught in the middle of the fighting, Agu’s father and brother are killed. Agu flees into the bush and is soon picked up by a band of rebels. The leader of these rebels, played by Elba, takes Agu under his wing. This film is not based on a true story per se, but it is true that hundreds of thousands of children all over Africa are trained and brainwashed to be killers. Such is the life of Agu for the remainder of the film.

The performance by Atta is so rich and deep, it is heartbreakingly difficult to watch. Atta who was “essentially a street vendor” before shooting the movie, shows the maturity of a seasoned professional at only 14 years old. Besides a short film that has just been completed, Beasts of No Nation is literally the only thing on his IMDb page. Elba’s performance is also astounding. As the rebel leader, he strips himself of all his natural charm and transforms into a manipulative brute with nothing but selfish motivations.

This movie deserves Oscars. Best picture, best director, best lead actor for Atta, and best supporting actor for Elba are all possibilities. If that happens, it would make Netflix a legitimate source for quality films. This films is one of the reasons people should stop saying that something is “too good” to be on Netflix. I will not be surprised if in the next five to ten years big name directors start considering Netflix as a distribution platform for some of their smaller projects.

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