When civil war tears his family apart, a young West African boy is forced to join a unit of mercenary fighters and transform into a child soldier.
Director: Cary Joji Fukunaga
Starring: Idris Elba, Jude Akuwudike, Ama K. Abebrese, Abraham Attah, Kurt Egyiawan, Emmanuel “King Kong” Nii Adom Quaye, Kobina Amissah Sam, Francis Weddey
Information Page: https://uk.newonnetflix.info/info/80044545
When James Cameron’s “Avatar” was released it received that much hype that I refused to go see it until I was ready and wanted to see it. As it happened, while the film looked great, I wasn’t that keen on the story it told – it was big because of the hype, not because it was actually any good. Why am I telling you this in the opening lines of a review of Netflix’s first full-length movie “Beasts of No Nation”? I’ll get to that later…
Agu is a young African boy living in a buffer zone in a country in the middle of civil war. There’s no school because of the war and the film starts off with some great scenes of children making their own entertainment in what must be a very difficult situation. But things soon turn sour when the political situation changes and their buffer zone is no longer safe and the family are split up in a very tense and emotionally charged part of the story.
Agu ends up in the bush alone and fending for himself before being picked up by the NDF, a mercenary group that make use of child soldiers. While Agu doesn’t want to be a soldier, he still feels the need to prove himself and gets through a rather brutal initiation test – more to aid his survival than anything else. There are some quite brutal and graphic scenes in the film and these are perhaps more horrific because you know that there are many regimes that make use of child soldiers – it’s not based on a true story, but you know that these things happen. In all honesty, I did struggle to watch some of the more violent scenes but these are cleverly shot and are clearly designed to help explain what Agu and his cohorts go through rather than for pure shock value.
“Beasts of No Nation” was filmed in Ghana and the location provides some amazing, sweeping shots of the West African foliage and hills. This is a stark contrast to the brainwashed, child soldiers and their actions. As the film goes on you can see the boys becoming numb to their actions; completely desensitised. Children that age should not have to witness, let alone carry out, such things. At times it seems like they enjoy what they’re doing but you soon realise that it’s just a way to stay alive, to survive.
The film is not trying to teach the viewer about the plight of child soldiers, but that is clearly a large part of the content; however “Beasts of No Nation” is a story of friendship, of youth, of trust and, most importantly, of faith and hope. At times it’s difficult to work out how the soldiers could still have any hope left under the charge of their Commandant (played by Idris Elba) a power-hungry leader.
So, what was all that about “Avatar” earlier? In a nutshell, I watched “Avatar” when I wanted to and got to see the film for what it was – overhyped and, to be honest, just not that good. “Beasts of No Nation” has received a lot of hype and, while it is a very good, emotional film, I can’t help thinking that I should have waited until the hype had died down. Watch it when you are ready to watch a good enactment of child soldiers and the issues surrounding that, and not just because it’s Netflix’s first full length film. In a nutshell, “Beasts of No Nation” is a well-produced, well-acted and emotional film.
Have you seen this film? Let us know your opinions in the comments below and of course if there are any films on Netflix UK you want us to review let us know!