Written by: Kyle Pinaro
Cary Joji Fukunaga is one of those directors that comes along every once in a blue moon and has a presence like no other, making his work a force to be reckoned with. His newest project Beasts of No Nation takes Fukunaga and his vision to a place where civil war runs rampant and death is everywhere. Having directed every single episode of True Detective’s first season, the subject material feels new but familiar but in a setting relatively untouched by Hollywood and even the world.
The film is set in a present day unnamed African country where our protagonist Agu resides. After his mother flees the country and the government kills his father and brother, Agu narrowly escapes into the jungle and is found by the Commandant (Idris Elba) and his “army” of child soldiers. Agu is rounded up by the army and trains to become a monster, while the Commandant plants dark values into his mind. The film does a masterful job of depicting the crumbling of a child’s mind and soul to become a killing machine, all while Agu has just started to blossom as a teenager. It’s like his mind and body hit a brick wall and skipped stages, his whole demeanor is that of a hardened adult.
Newcomer Abraham Attah is a revelation as Agu, given it’s only his first film and he singlehandedly carried the film this kid is really going places so keep a look out for that. But Idris Elba as the Commandant is maybe a career high for the thesp, his delivery and brainwashing speeches are so convincing one almost forgets they’re watching a movie. The movie does suffer from pacing issues however, especially in the second act. It grows slow and a bit somber, and the third act also lacks a bit of pizzazz it seems considering there really isn’t a whole lot of pay off.
Nevertheless the film is one of Fukunaga’s best and achieves new heights for the director as well as raising the bar for Netflix’s quality standards. It’s beautifully shot, expertly executed, gripping, brutal, dark, introspective, and on top of it all extremely well acted. This is something everybody should see.
Beasts of No Nation is available now on Netflix and in select theatres.