REVIEW: Beasts of No Nation (2015)

Netflix – Release Poster – Beasts of No Nation

The following is a review of the Netflix Original Film ‘Beasts of No Nation’, a Cary Joji Fukunaga Film.

In 2005, Uzodinma Iweala’s novel Beasts of No Nation was published. Now, ten years later, it has become the first major Netflix Original Film. Cinematically, this is Cary Joji Fukunaga’s baby. Fukunaga is best known for directing the first season of True Detective, but also wrote and directed Sin Nombre, a critically acclaimed immigration thriller from 2009. Similarly, Fukunaga took on more than one role in the creation of Beasts of No Nation – but he is not just the screenwriter and director, he also served as the cinematographer on the film. But how did this Netflix project turn out? It just so happens that this is one of the most powerful films of 2015.

Beasts of No Nation follows Agu (played by Abraham Attah), a Nigerian boy, who becomes stuck in the middle of a civil war. Slowly, but surely, his family falls apart, and at his weakest point he is picked up by the NDF (the Native Defense Force) and its vain and egotistical Commandant (played by Idris Elba). What follows is an excellent example of how these child soldiers are indoctrinated and lost at the sight of horrors and terrifying acts of war.

This is an impressive film, and it does a good job of showing the thought process, and ultimate evolution, of a child alone in the world – how any guiding light can become the all-important influence. Make no mistake, while Idris Elba is the most prominent name in the cast, his character is not the main character at all.

Elba, however, delivers the best performance in the film, and, for that fact alone, I wish some of his scenes would have been longer or more explicit in its cruelty. With that having been said, it is not that Fukunaga hides child soldier cruelty from us, but I found it interesting that the Commandant’s sexual advances were left rather implicit.

Fukunaga really should be praised, as some of his stylistic choices really hit. Not only is his film stunning, but there is one scene that magnificently underlines Agu’s state of mind. Suddenly, as Agu has reached his breaking point, and is finally fully indoctrinated, the green Nigerian jungle becomes all red. We then see him leading the charge in an attack on a small village – showing no remorse as he guns down the villagers. A stunning stylistic choice from Fukunaga.

All in all, Beasts of No Nation must be commended for being a powerful film, which feels incredibly authentic. This was an undeniable success for Netflix as it is a great film – however, I am not sure that the Netflix audience will respond to it. Only time will tell.

Final Score: 8.8 out of 10Beasts of No Nation is one of the most powerful films of 2015.

I’m Jeffrey Rex