An amazing perspective on an important issue, this movie is hard to watch, but impossible to turn off.
1. This is a uniquely painful film about the real-life phenomenon of child soldiers. It takes place in West Africa, and tells the story of an 8-year-old boy named Agu. His village is caught up in the middle of a civil war, and he ends up alone in the jungle, until a small group of guerrilla fighters find him. Agu is raised, trained, and brainwashed to fight for a cause that he is too young to understand.
2. The movie is basically about the complete destruction of a happy kid... and the emergence of a traumatized child war criminal. While it's easy to condemn what's done to the boy in this movie, you also come to understand the context in which this happens. It's harder to know where to place the blame than you might think.
3. While this movie is not specifically a true story, it is based on real events. It comes from the book of the same name, written by a 23-year-old man who works in real life with rehabilitating child soldiers.
4. The film is beautiful to watch, which is a big contrast to its subject. The movie has some graphic scenes, but doesn't show all the violence and degradation that it could have. They leave a good amount to your imagination.
5. The movie was written, directed, and filmed by Cary Joji Fukunaga. Fukunaga also wrote and directed 2009's remarkable movie Sin Nombre, but is probably most famous for directing the first season of the HBO series "True Detective".
6. The kid that plays Agu, Abraham Atta, gives one of the best acting performances of the year. It's impossible to describe his charisma and his range of emotional reactions. Atta was accidentally discovered by the filmmakers because he was skipping school and playing soccer when the director walked by, looking for child actors.
7. Idris Elba plays the rebel leader. He's a great actor and I've been a fan of him ever since "The Wire" was on HBO in 2002. He needs more substantial leading roles. I hope the rumor of him playing the next James Bond comes true.
8. This is a non-Hollywood, independent film, which means that usually hardly anybody would see it. But Netflix bought the rights to distribute the film, and put it on their website as well as in a few theaters. A lot more people can now watch it. And they should.
9. This is a profoundly depressing, beautiful, horrifying story that vividly illustrates a part of contemporary world events that us Westerners don't hear much about. Don't watch this movie if you want to stay in a good mood. But watch it sometime. It's important.