Beasts of No Nation (2015)

8.5 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 9/10

Great acting, good looking, works more to expose the problem

Hard to watch

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Beasts of No Nation

Studio:  Netflix

Genre(s):  Drama

Release Date(s):  September 3, 2015 (Venice Film Festival)/October 16, 2015 (US)

MPAA Rating:  Not Rated

beasts of no nation commandant idris elba

I’m a big, bad man…who manipulates children to fight my battles

Civil war has struck the West African region where Agu (Abraham Attah) and his family live. When Agu is separated from his family and finds he is alone in the world, hope comes in the form of the Commandant (Idris Elba) and his team of child soldiers. Though Agu has found a new family, Agu discovers the Commandant might not be the father he expected and “family” is taking on different terms.

Directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga, Beasts of No Nation is based on the 2005 novel by Uzodinma Iweala. The film premiered at the Venice Film Festival on September 3, 2015 and was released by Netflix on October 16, 2015 as their first original film. It received critical acclaim and praise for Idris Elba’s performance. There were some claims of using the images of Richard Mosse for certain parts of the film.

beasts of no nation machete kill agu abraham attah idris elba

Dude, I was joking about the whole “chop him up” thing…you guys take stuff way too seriously

Beast of No Nation created a problem in its release. With Netflix’s streaming of the film, the question of what is acceptable for award consideration was thrown up in the air and led to wrath from the big theater chains who boycotted a same day theatrical release. Idris Elba became the first actor to win a SAG award for his performance to not be nominated for an Academy Award. Despite the “small screen” aspect of Beasts of No Nation, the film is a big screen film.

The story is tough. Child soldiers are about as despicable as you can get. You have kids who have lost everything, who are looking for direction, and find a new family…that promptly uses them as human shields under the flag of liberty. Some of the children understand and believe what they are fighting for (and would not face that great of a life even if they weren’t co-opted into the fight), but many of them (like Agu) are orphaned and have no one to help them. It was an odd choice to have the Commandant sexually assault the Agu character because it made him a clean-cut bad guy…I liked it a little more ambiguous with the Commandant’s ambition and use of the children making him the bad guy.

beasts of no nation 2015 agu strika abraham attah emmanuel nii adom quaye

Hey, this is a a real pick me up…get it Strika….a pun!

Idris Elba really pulls off this movie. He has to be the type of person that children would admire and gravitate to. His size, booming voice, and energy really makes him a believable “good guy” to the kids, but also shows his shallowness and how bad of a guy he is to use children both sexually and as human shields. Despite being “the star”, Elba can credit a lot of his performance to a strong supporting cast including the young Abraham Attah who goes from fearing Idris, to admiring Idris, and back to fearing him and hating him.

The movie isn’t low budget (something that Netflix really changed up). The film was shot in Ghana and it has a real style to it. It captures aspect other big war film while still feeling rather internal and personal.

Beasts of No Nation is/was a bit of a game-changer. It shows the changing movie market and how people get their entertainment. It also shows that small screen doesn’t necessarily mean small screen acting or budgets. Beasts of No Nation does this while providing a complex, hard to watch story about children systematically being turned into murderers…all at the hands of adults they should be able to trust.


Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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