Beasts of No Nation

While browsing through Netflix this morning, I noticed a new title in the suggested films area. Several weeks ago I had watched the trailer for the new Netflix movie by the title of Beasts of No Nation and was immediately interested in the story of this young boy who becomes a child soldier after his world falls into chaos. I guess I’ve always been interested in war movies and documentaries based in Africa ever since I got involved with Invisible Children and spent a summer serving in Uganda.

For the sake of not spoiling the entire movie, I will not be discussing specifics but, be warned, I will be talking about it in broad strokes and themes throughout this post. I highly suggest that you log into Netflix tonight and watch the movie before you venture farther into these words. Be warned, the movie is graphic and disturbing at times (make sure the kids don’t watch, please). So, watch with caution.

This film is for mature audiences onlyBeasts of No Nation dives into death, drugs, war crimes (including, but not limited to rape, torture, and indoctrination), and has enough realistic bloodshed to make the viewer question whether we are watching a movie or a documentary filmed on scene. This is not a ‘feel good’ movie with a happy ending, but a gritty, down-to-earth look into the complex conflict of war

The film follows a young boy, Agu, who escapes death in the middle of a civil war in an unnamed country in Africa before starting a journey into becoming an exceptional child soldier fighting for the Commandant against government and other rebel forces. He is taught to kill and to be unafraid of death.

Unlike many other movies that center around conflicts in Africa (I’m specifically thinking about Blood Diamond, but you could also include Tears of the Sun and many others to this list), this movie dies not center around an individual that is made out to be a hero. There is nobody seeking after redemption or forgiveness. The characters have embraced their new reality and face it every day as a family. As brothers born together in bloodshed.

Yes, you can hear Agu’s prayers throughout the film, but he never seeks out forgiveness. All he wants is to find his lost mother and young sister, but is so caught up in the bloodletting and drugs that he cannot escape the life that he has been forced into.

In filming this story, director Cary Fukunaga and the entire cast and crew presented a powerful description of a life many of us could never imagine. The film not only catches our eye with vibrant images with dark undertones, but also captures our thoughts and mind as we try to comprehend the horror that fills the screen. In all, the film is a beautiful nightmare that draws us in from the opening scene and doesn’t allow us to breath until the end.

This view of the child soldier, an orphan who is indoctrinated into a family bound by bloodshed, is real. Part of me wishes that this story, this movie was just something that was formed and created in someones twisted mind, but I know that this is a story that echoes throughout hundreds of thousands of lives. The background and setting of this movie are based in reality.

The end of the movie captures our heart with the very real struggle of hope in the darkness. The beauty of the film that sticks with me is the possibility of hope and happiness that the movie leaves us with. Nothing is resolved, but we receive an echo of hope from Agu as he struggles to find happiness after all that he had not only witnessed, but taken part in.

The real power of this film is that very struggle.

Despite the graphic scenes and bloodshed, there is a struggle that echoes throughout the entire movie that draws us in and eventually provides us with hope for the future. And I know that this is the same struggle and hope that thousands are currently facing throughout the world, as children who have lost their innocence seek happiness once again.


1 Comment »

  1. Great review! I watched this today and reviewed it on my blog as well. I agree, it was a very powerful and realistic story of a young boy forced to grow up too soon. Idris Elba was amazing and Fukunaga has to be congratulated on a fantastic production.

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