Starring: Abraham Atta, Idris Elba
Directed By: Cary Fukunaga
It took me a whole day to actually process Beasts Of No Nation, a film that my brain just was so incredibly divided on. Half of my brain instantly recognized how I would never want to watch the film again. It’s an incredibly difficult film for many reasons. It’s not a happy film, and it always has this cloud of doom hovering over the plot. I can’t ever see myself choosing to watch the film again, or finding a situation where I’d recommend it to anyone.
At the same time, I think it is truly an extraordinary piece of filmmaking. It dares to go where no other filmmaker has dared to go before, and it does so with an almost completely unknown cast, and a lead child actor. Cary Fukunaga, for lack of a better term, has gigantic balls. While other directors are making romcoms and alien movies, Fukunaga is hoping to change the way people understand how child armies happen. And the other half of my brain thinks he’s fucking brilliant.
Netflix has gotten into the movie business, and while I haven’t loved all of their TV series, this is a hopeful start to their filmmaking line. Beasts Of No Nation is the kind of low key, yet incredibly daring work that is bound to pay off. It’s a film that you can’t help but have a discussion about. It features so many incredibly hard to watch moments, though, that it will remain a film that is typically “one and done”.
It instantly puts itself in the Oscar race, though I have a sad feeling both Abraham Atta and Idris Elba will be forgotten about, as will Fukunaga for director. All three have done absolutely impeccable work in this. I honestly think this might be Elba’s best role ever, and he’s had some really heavy hitting roles in the past. Probably, most notably, his performance in Mandela that almost got him an Oscar nomination.
It’s really Abraham Atta who slays his performance, instantly becoming one of the best child actors ever. I remember when everyone got excited about Barkhad Abdi’s performance in Captain Phillips, but for me this surpasses that. It’s an incredibly tight year for the leading man Oscar race and Atta is bound to be forgotten about. Sad, but true.
I would encourage you to think about watching Beasts Of No Nation. Ultimately, it’s a rewarding experience, but it is also a difficult one, which is why I won’t demand you see it. You SHOULD see it. It will open up your eyes. Easily one of the best films of the year, and a great start for Netflix into original films.
FINAL GRADE: A