BEASTS OF NO NATION Review

THE NEW NORMAL
4 Out Of 5 Stars

GET TO THE POINT BEN!

The normality of violence, though digestible, didn't make up for some of the loose ends upon completion.  

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After seven years working hard on perfecting a violently moving narrative, Cary Joji Fukunaga (Sin Nombre, Jane Eyre) moves into the new era of cinematic entertainment with Netflix to bring us the compelling tale of Agu (Abraham Attah), the child soldier forced to fight amongst the civil war of an un-named African country (a “no nation” of sorts).

With faint notice of war approaching, Agu’s mother, sister, and baby brother all head for the capital to seek refuge.  Amidst the commotion of the townspeople egging the escape to rescue their women and children as well, Agu is forced behind to fight the approaching soldiers alongside his father and older brother.  As his remaining family is nearing a potentially fatal and bloodthirsty death, Agu runs with all of his inertia to seek liberty and discovers such exemption through the rebel Native Defense Force (NDF) the opposition of the soldiers he ran away from.  Led by the Commandant (Idris Elba), they convince Agu to take refuge for his family and fight within their march as a child soldier. 

It is here that Agu is no longer a child.  It is here that Agu becomes a man.  Where he learns an unorthodox of solace in his new refuge to aid his new family in the murder, the rape, the looting, and the normality of evil that Agu now participates in himself.  It is here that Agu joins the beasts of no nation.

The Commandant of the Native Defense Force (Idris Elba) encourages their newest soldier Agu (Abraham Attah) to kill. 
Writer/Director and Cinematographer Fukunaga really brings to light just how severe the brutality is on all sides of the violence.  Yet I enjoyed how, through the editing and music, the message that this is all normal made its place in the center of my mind and viewing experience.  As I become familiar with Elba’s Commandant Character, I could see just how normal the act of violence was during this time.  How the Commandant exerted his leadership and how his soldiers followed, how they took heed to his guidance and any recognition was good recognition because it was purely recognition, and how this was inappropriately overlain in other aspects of the relationships.  My heart sank when our protagonist Agu tumbled victim to the deepest part of his descent into this new normality.  This young and innocent kid only doing what he thinks is true. 

Although this was Agu’s story, I wanted more resolution with the relationship of the soldiers and the Commandant, brilliantly portrayed by Elba (LOVED his accent and wardrobe and have a new Halloween costume to keep in mind for the future).  To be able to see a little bit more clearly the results of some actions, though violent and normal, but because they are violent, just a hint at some retribution would’ve eased my spirits a little better and appointed interest in such spirit to view this film again.  But sadly, once is enough, unless friendly coercion of some array is well executed. 

Not to mention, due to the marketing, I went into this thinking Elba was the hero, the aged boy years later that we started out with, only to discover a half hour in that he’s actually a secondary character and an evil one at that.  So that’s more on the heads of the studio than Fukunaga’s. 

Nonetheless, it will still be quite interesting to see how a heavily viewed film from the new online streaming revolution of home entertainment plays out this awards season!

Beasts of No Nation (2015)
Drama, 137 Minutes, Not Officially Rated 
However,  more than worthy of an R or even higher rating
Written & Directed By: Cary Joji Fukunaga
Cast: Idris Elba and introducing Abraham Attah

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