Beasts of No Nation is directed by Cary Fukunaga (True Detective season 1), stars Idris Elba and Abraham Attah and it’s adapted from the Uzodinma Iweala novel of the same name. In it, a young boy named Agu (Attah) who’s taken as a child soldier by the Commandant (Elba) in a soul-crushing tale of horror and ravaging civil war.
One thing that really stands out is the movie’s use of humour which is certainly not something you would expect to find in a movie about child soldiers. This doesn’t mean that it’s a funny movie, it’s far from it- in fact, it’s one of the most desensitizing and depressing movies out there. A big problem I’ve found with drama is that it tries too hard to be as dramatic as possible without showing the funnier and more ironic tone of its subject matter. This is well appreciated since once the shit really hits the fan, and it does, you’re gonna be in for some heavy stuff and you’re gonna wish that none of this is happening.
Idris Elba makes quite an entrance. He’s scum but you somehow believe how he can persuade a child into joining his so called family. There were some parts where the narrative switches to his perspective which felt a bit awkward even though it felt just as involved as Agu’s arc. Elba’s character could’ve been kept as more of a supporting role to smooth out the pacing. Another great performance is the Abraham Attah as Agu. He’s able to understand his surroundings and the material that’s given to him to give you the most disturbed and desensitized performance in the entire film. He’s got a fruitful career ahead of him after standing equal to his contemporaries including that of Elba himself.
The narration is a bit too on-the-nose and if you were to take it away from the film it would’ve felt grittier and certainly less distracting. Maybe I have a problem with narration in movies in general. But come on, this is too obvious and honestly it’s only there to beat your soul down with a sledgehammer.
Beasts of No Nation has some problems with its pacing and narration. The movie shouldn’t be easy to watch and it isn’t. It’s simply a disturbing war drama that’s reminiscent of films such as Apocalypse Now. But similar to Apocalypse Now, this is worth seeing once and never again.