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BEASTS OF NO NATION (review)

beasts_of_no_nation_ver8BEASTS OF NO NATION

Written and Directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga / Starring Idris Elba and Abraham Attah

Agu: Sun, why are you shining on this world? I am wanting to squeeze you until you don’t shine no more.

BEASTS OF NO NATION, Cary Fukunaga’s first film in four years (the fantastic JANE EYRE was his last feature), tells the tale of a young boy who is ripped from his family in Africa during a period of civil unrest and forced to join a group of mercenary militants to stay alive. It is a story that is inherent with strife and sadness but yet that rarely translates on screen here.

Initially, BEASTS OF NO NATION is a fairly peaceful affair. The aforementioned young boy, Agu (newcomer Abraham Attah in his first film), lives with his parents and siblings, and spends his days selling junk and causing general boyhood-like mischief. He will get into a whole other kind of mischief before too long but when the military rips through his village and guns down everyone he loves before his eyes, he runs into the forest to avoid his own death. If this trauma weren’t enough to endure, he is captured by militants, led by Idris Elba, and before long, he is rising the ranks of this adolescent army.

Agu’s transformation from child to child soldier is not unlike anything we’ve seen before. The film is similar in tone to CITY OF GOD but nowhere near as emotionally engaging. This is by no means young Attah’s fault; he handles the material very well and at times even better than Elba. It just doesn’t feel new or purposeful. By the time he has to kill an innocent man as a rite of passage to be accepted by his colleagues, it comes off as expected rather than shocking.

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BEASTS OF NO NATION also often functions as a showcase for Elba. His commanding officer is a complex one. He plays father figure to these boys but abuser as well and his ego is of far mort import to him than winning the war he is fighting (a war I might add that is never truly explained in the film). Despite the colour to his character, Elba plays him in a very monotone fashion. Save for a couple of moments where he briefly shows us the darker aspects of his personality, there isn’t much that stands out.

In the end, BEASTS OF NO NATION is a disappointing and surprisingly tame loss of innocence picture, making it the beast of not much of anything at all.

3 sheep

 

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