Posted Dec 08 2015

Beasts Of No Nation - This Movie Doesn't Quite Rock

Dir: Cary Fukunaga

Starring Idris Elba, Abraham Attah, Ama Abebrese

Cary Fukunaga’s overly long film is the tale of young Agu’s journey from boy to boy soldier, a brutalising coming of age story, set in an unspecified African country during an unspecified civil war. Initially, Agu’s village life is shown in a borderline idealised manner, something that is soon ripped asunder as the militia arrive and he witnesses the murder of his father and brother. Escaping into the wilds outside the village, Agu is soon picked up by a group of rebel soldiers, ruled with a psychologically violent streak by the Commandant (Elba) – with a physical line in violence never far away. There, Agu moves from innocent to killer, the light we initially see in his eyes, slowly being desensitised out of him.

Beautifully shot and with an compelling swirling score by Dan Romer (who seems to have a thing for Beasts, having done …of the Southern Wild as well) Fukunaga’s movie often impresses, but is equally lackadaisical at times, slowly trudging its way through the jungle rather than leading, eventually hitting a wall when Elba’s Commandant goes all Colonel Kurtz on us.

That said, Elba is impressive throughout, a brutal man, charismatically ruling – and justifying – a shocking regime. The real strength of the movie, and its binding tissue, however is the discovery of Abraham Attah as Agu, who delivers a terrific, moving performance that moves from a simple, happy youth to a child verging on lifelessness and trying to absorb the literal death of his childhood, as well as much else around him.

It echoes Spielberg’s take on Empire of the Sun in that respect, but lacks the quiet devastation of that movie. Overall, worthy, if long-winded.


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