Title – Beasts of No Nation (2015)
Director – Cary Joji Fukunaga (Jane Eyre)
Cast – Abrahma Attah, Idris Elba
Plot – In the midst of a fiery civil war in an African nation, young boy Agu (Attah) finds himself under the command of a violent, yet charismatic commandant (Elba) who leads his band of men and boys on a path of destruction through the heart of the war torn country.
“I just want to be happy in this life”
Review by Eddie on 21/10/2015
While his early films Sin Nombre and in particular Jane Eyre marked him as a talent to keep a keen eye on, it was last year’s first season of True Detective that catapulted young director Cary Joji Fukunaga to not only be one of the brightest young filmmakers in the industry, but a unique storyteller with more than enough artistic vision to boot.
Riding the tidal wave of the HBO backed show’s success, viewers have been eagerly awaiting Fukunaga’s next move, a move which has now been finalised with the Netflix-led release of Beasts of No Nation.
A confronting, immaculately filmed and feverish war set tale that spans one of the many conflicts that has occurred in the heartlands of Africa, Beasts is very much a tale cut from the same cloth as war films Apocalypse Now and Platoon; no mean feat yet comparisons Beasts deserves.
Not only directing the film but working on script duties, taking a producing credit and doing his own cinematography work, Beasts is for all shapes and purposes Fukunaga’s film. It’s an impressively constructed effort and for all those that may have worried Fukunaga’s work on True Detective was but a flash in the pan, they can rest easy on the basis of the product he has delivered here.
There’s a wild, almost nightmare like quality to how Fukunaga captures much of the goings on in Beasts; from the jungle set camp of the warring soldiers, the fighting scenes (in particular a mind altered look at a village battle) and the way in which our main protagonist and child soldier Agu delivers a voiceover to let the audience into his inner mindset, Beasts is a beast of its very own, and it’s all the better for it for not conforming to usual resolutions or plot progressions.
At the very heart of Fukunaga’s film is the delivery of one of the best child performances you’re likely to ever see and another feather in the cap of Idris Elba whose quickly becoming one of his generations most powerful performers. For all of Beast’s artistic merits it would’ve fallen short at the finish line had the acting been sub-par but thankfully Fukunaga shows himself to be not only a director of skill, but a director of actors.
Abraham Attah as Abu is Oscar worthy, there’s no two ways about it. From mischievous child to cold blooded murderer, it’s an incredible turn and a haunting one. Attah’s intense final scenes in the film show an ability far beyond his 14 years and to think he was plucked from a school yard for this role just makes his turn more mind boggling. Alongside his seasoned co-star in the form of Elba’s charismatic yet vulnerable commandant, Beasts features some of the year’s best performances and it wouldn’t be surprising to see these two at next year’s Oscar ceremony.
Beasts of No Nation marks the beginning of a brave new world, a Netflix led charge on feature film watching and while it’s a shame many of us will never get to see this devastating beauty on the big screen, we should be more than excited for what the future holds for Netflix backed films on the basis of this no holds barred tale that shows the loss of innocence in the midst of chaos and death.
One of the year’s best films and in many ways most shocking (a few scenes are almost unbearable in subject matter and intensity), Beasts of No Nation is yet another reason to suggest Fukunaga could well become not only one of the best filmmakers of his generation, but one the most accomplished filmmakers in many moons.
4 ½ screen-free TV’s out of 5