Beasts of No Nation full movie review - Woh!......I Wasn't Expecting This...(breathless) BRAVO!
I am stunned, turmoiled, and loving film again. Ever experienced a film so captivating that all becomes deathly still and silent and no one dares to move?
Bladders agonisingly clenched, popcorn unmolested, lovers ignored? I've seen it twice before; Schindler's List and Saving Private Ryan. Meet #3. To think I nearly ducked out of this in favour of a computer game?!
This film opened my eyes in a way a thousand news reports could never do. I'm still reeling from the raw, unapologetic story told to me through the eyes of the heartbroken protagonist, Agu (Abraham Attah). I felt his pain. What an accolade for a child actor,'I felt your pain'? This kid has a naturalness rarely seen in even the most seasoned of performers. Just recounting it a few hours later is bringing an aching lump to my throat. A brave and accomplished film. And now I know of the hardships and difficulties experienced in the making of it my hat comes off and I bow to a master; Screen Writer & Director Mr. Fukunaga. I hope the years to come recognise this as a true work of the story teller's art. The original novel's author, Uzodinma Iweala, must be proud and gratified that his message is now out there? He's written a fable of real worth and power that has been thoughtfully rendered. The respect I have for Mr.Fukunaga has grown massively. I've just read that some of the cast were a nightmare that forced constant rewrites by having tantrums, getting wasted or disappearing half way through the scene or shoot; and that locations could be 'chaotic'on a good day.
To get through this film is tough, many will cry, I did. Most will be shocked. If not they could be the 1% that are psychopaths, call 999, NOW!
I met Agu's family and loved them. I wanted to invite myself 'round and join in the fun. Their decency and values shine through in a relaxed, un-schmaltzy way despite recent hardships. A distant civil war that can't quite be ignored is perfectly captured in little snapshots of daily life that bring a knowing smile and a chuckle. They're in The Buffer Zone, they're protected by the UN troops based right outside, they're safe...
The manic free-fall into chaos and bloodshed is immediate, brutal and frightening. Just as it would have been for Agu and his family. Plans and best intentions are destroyed; random evil and bad luck are the only constant. Imagine being a child of about ten finding yourself bound and kneeling with a few surviving neighbours? You're about to be executed? You're so scared you can't breathe from panic? Those that protected you are dead or about to be murdered with you. All within an hour of life being good; you laughed with impish glee moments ago, peeing on your older brother's head from the roof. This is where Agu's descent into hell starts. Every bit of decency and respect instilled by a strong family and their love aren't just eroded. They're smashed, trampled, gutted, spat on and ground into the mud with a rifle butt and sadistic grin.
For some reason he's spared death. He wanders the forest, alone and starving, eating leaves and poisonous roots, he IS going to die, and soon. Rescue arrives with the foulest of deals. The very same evil that inflicted this suffering and stole his family finds him, and it's recruiting.
An abused, toughened, obedient and brainwashed Agu is let loose on the world. His family is now 'The Battalion'. His brothers are skilled butchers in a planned campaign that becomes one of attrition and terror. They're well trained and willing killers, all of them. Each dragging the others further down into a seething pit of rape and summary murder. Rewarded, cajoled and abused by their new father 'The Commandant' (Idris Elba) in equal measure. Idris' own unraveling and end is left wide open but we can guess his fate was probably quite karmic. I hated him. Again this is testimony to the skill of the performances and Mr. Fukunaga's direction. Some of the jungle shots echo Terrence Mallick's close up's of the pure, innocent wildlife in The Thin Red Line. Natural tranquility filled with exotic birdsong and mating calls, life is happily thriving....and about to be torn to shreds and silenced forever by the horsemen of the apocalypse at full gallop and backed up by artillery.
Are we left with any hope at the end? Maybe. But for Agu all hope has been lost, along with his once sensitive and happy soul. The cold unblinking eyes of a predatory shark stare out from a small boy and size up an orphanage's counselor. She gently digs but he doesn't hurry to speak, the counselor calmly questions but gets no answers, just silence..........all the while the spoken narrative in Agu's head is scathing and dismissive (Not verbatim, just the essence)"You have no idea about what I've done, how could you,stupid b1tch ? I could rape and kill you". Then more silence.......
"....I saw terrible things, I did terrible things....I am some sort of beast and a Devil, I am all of these things....but I also had a mother, father, brothers and sisters......once.....they loved me........". BOOM! I cried like a baby.
After seeing this milestone I read some reviews. Most loved it, however some were so scorning I wondered whether they'd actually seen the same film? Ignore the snobs and Academy. This is a must watch film, I promise....
Feb 2016; As expected, the Hollywood 'Empire' ignored this, so no Academy back scratching. Other 'big' awards tip the slightest of nods with 'best supporting actor' nominations for Idris Elba. I think they're too dismissive of internet companies like Netflix creating good independent TV and Film. They can't control it so ignore it and hope it'll go away.'Empires' decline and die by ignoring the new competition.