Since when did Netflix become so powerful?! They’re certainly trying to change the game, for sure. They’ve gone from a simple entertainment streaming service to a huge TV and film production company. Beasts of No Nation (2015) was scheduled for a Netflix release on the same day as the cinema release, which angered a lot of big cinema chains who then boycotted the movie altogether, leaving it as a limited release. I don’t think it got a release in any of the chains near us in the UK!
On the face of it, Beasts of No Nation is major Oscar bait. A drama set in war-torn Africa; the story of a young boy torn from his family and trained by rebels to be a deadly soldier. Yes, it’s easy to be cynical, but there is so much more to this movie.
Abraham Attah plays Agu, a young and charismatic boy who comes up with innovative new ways to make money for his family. We get to see him showing off his ‘imagination TV’ with his friends, which is something I’m sure we all liked to do when we were younger. When the village Agu lives in is under threat, there is no room (or money) for him to flee with his Mother and so he is forced to stay with the men of the village in an attempt to defend their homes.
Poor Agu is forced to watch his family slaughtered in front of him, and barely escapes himself, before he is found by the Commandant of a group of rebels, played by Idris Elba, and this is where his training begins.
There’s something extremely unsettling about a young child taught how to carry a gun, how to camouflage himself, follow the older rebels and act as a squire for them, and eventually, kill a man in cold blood. The whole movie in fact was engaging from start to finish, but uncomfortable and upsetting at the same time. I think the run-time was a little excessive (137 min), but I struggle with long movies regardless.
Idris Elba was really impressive in this movie, and I saw a side of him I’d never witnessed before. His accent and mannerisms were absolutely fantastic, but he really was out-shined time and time again by Abraham Attah. Can children even win Oscars? Because this kid deserves them all! I hope he continues to act, because he’s going to be incredible.
EDIT: I'm not going crazy here with this next paragraph, it's just that my review has been sat in our drafts list for a while! Kind of gutted it didn't get any nominations, actually. I would be thrilled to see Beasts of No Nation in the nominee list for Best Picture next year. It’s a movie I’ll probably never want to watch again, but I’ll also never forget it, and I think that’s what counts.