Until Netflix took up the controversial film, Hollywood would never have made it. Cary Fukanaga’s film features an all black cast and centers around the war between the rebels and the government in Africa. It wouldn’t be a surprise that production companies wouldn’t back this one. But 2015 has seen some changes. With the likes of Spike Lee’s gang comedy Chi-Raq,iphone-shot Tangerines and academy award nominee for Best Documentary Virunga, the online medium has witnessed some truly positive results. Cary’s Beasts Of No Nation adds another strong film to Netflix’s growing repertoire and will hopefully bring more attention to films released in the same fashion.
Beasts Of No Nation is one of the best films I’ve seen this year. I make no bones about it. It starts of with a light-hearted mood as Agu and friends go around the village by trying to pass off selling a hollow tv screen as a 4-D tv. Their resilience pays off as a kind security guard buys it in exchange for some food. It’s a hilarious opening, where Fukanaga wants to depict the peace-loving community and it’s inherent innocence before chaos descends upon the land.
For the most part, Beasts Of No Nation is a serious and sombre film that thrives on its graphic quality and powerful characterization. Agu’s village is thrown into a sudden whirl as the government seizes control of his hometown believing that they are aligned with the rebel factions. We see how Agu flees the village, broken and traumatized, after seeing his life get torn by the atoricties that be. It is realistic stuff that Abraham Attah carries with a flair of his own. This 15 year old is one seriously talented lad and this is surely his breakthrough picture, kind of like Quvenzhane Wallis in Beasts Of The Southern Wild. He has a child-like quality that isn’t lost at once or entirely which makes the film more poignant than depressing.
‘Yes Sir!’ ‘Yes Commandant!’ echo the rebels in the hallowed forests. Their leader, played by Idris Elba, wears a khaki beret and a rugged coolness like he was born for the role. Disarding the traditional notion of one-dimensional dictatorial african tyrants, Commandant has many facets to his personality. He’s a fearsome leader of his young rebel faction who isn’t afraid to dispose of anyone who threatens his position of power. Yet, he preaches the narrative of injustice that begs of sympathy and motivates his followers like he’s Mandela 2.0. I can’t see anyone other than Idris Elba as Commandant. That’s just how good he was.
Attah’s transformation from a pure canvass of simple-minded happiness to brokenness and rage is layered. There were a few instances where Agu had realized himself that they were points of no return. Yet, even as he had fallen down the slippery slope, the film made an effort to show his conscience and regret. Cinematographer and director Fukanaga did a wonderful job varying between the harsh hues of real warfare and the softer and more tender scenes of Agu’s self-reproachment.
Beasts Of No Nation leaves no holds barred. There’s no personal story that’s formulated,no personal tragedy that’s over-the-top and no national narrative that’s biased. It takes you the the core of a problem that’s so pervasive and that engenders even more distrust and conflict within many African countries. Fukanaga and team have plunged right into this and successfully re-created a haunting imagery that’s simply the “realest”.With the film encasing raw and shudderingly powerful scenes at every instance, it comes full circle with an equally genuine introspection from Agu himself. Arguably, the last scenes of the film are the best and most powerful. We are forced into the darkets depths of humanity with his tear jerking reaction. Beasts Of No Nation, with unflicnhing spirit, brings out the cesspool of injustice while offering a redemptive glimmer for the grave reality it so violently projects.
Rating: 9/10 I’m surprised that it hasn’t got the awards season backing/traction it deserves. It’s kind of like Sicario. Both are profound explorations of ‘violence’. Yet both are kind of long shots for a best picture nomination. In my opinion, the film should be in for a best picture and and perhaps director/cinemtographer? And it goes without a question that Attah has my full support for whatever young actor/newcomer awards there are up for grabs and Idris Elba to win best supporting actor.