Set in an unnamed African country, this tells the story of Agu, a young boy caught in the middle of a civil war and his experiences during this hellish time.
Cary Joji Fukunaga directed, wrote the screenplay and was the cinematographer on this powerful war film and does a great job on all counts. The film has a slow pace to it and is similar to The Thin Red Line (one of the best war films made in the last 20 years) in many aspects; the voiceover, the meditative nature of the pace and the tall grass. Whilst it doesn’t quite reach the heights of TTRD, it is a worthy addition to the director’s canon. Fukunaga came onto the scene with his debut film, 2009’s powerful Sin Nombre, a film about Mexican/American border crossing and he received even more acclaim with the first series of True Detective. Here he has sold his film to Netflix, which may or may not cancel the film’s chances for consideration for the major awards next year. Maybe more people will see it as this usually isn’t the sort of film the popcorn posse would willingly see. The fact that it is entirely populated with black performers with none of them dressing up as a woman doesn’t bode well for the projected box office. Even Selma, only made $52 million with a budget of $20 million and that had a big advertising campaign and was nominated for some big awards. Hollywood needs to put more faith in certain films regardless of the hue of the actors.
Idris Elba plays the Commandant of the rebel army that Agu joins and plays the role of producer as well. His performance is functional, albeit a little ticcy. He is an actor with great screen presence and his charisma takes him a long way, I want to see him digging a little deeper in future performances, less charisma, more range please. The star of the film is Abraham Atta who plays the young lead, Agu, his quiet performance is filled with depth and pain and is testament to this young actor’s talent. There is a scene near the end of the film where he shows some incredible skills and stillness as an actor. Emmanuel Nii Adom Quaye plays Strika, Agu’s soldier friend and also delivers an incredible performance. Jude Aduwudike plays Supreme Commander Dada Goodblood and infuses his role with power and measured menace.
Dan Romer is on soundtrack duties and, while it doesn’t quite match the glory of Hans Zimmer’s The Thin Red Line soundtrack, it is quietly beautiful. Interestingly enough his previous work on the excellent Beasts of the Southern Wild makes this the second of his ‘Beasts’ trilogy. I’m joking but it would be interesting if it came to pass. The soundtrack here is definitely worth a listen.
This wasn’t as powerful or affecting as it could have been, given the subject matter I should have been in bits by the end but it feels like many punches are pulled but nevertheless Beasts of No Nation is definitely worth a watch.