Monday, October 19, 2015

Beasts of No Nation (2015)

Director: Cary Joji Fukunaga
Writers:  Cary Joji Fukunaga, Uzodinma Iweala
Cast:       Abraham Attah, Idris Elba, Emmanuel Affadzi

A drama based on the experiences of Agu, a child soldier fighting in the civil war of an unnamed African country. The film is based on the 2005 novel of the same name by Uzodinma Iweala and was shot in Ghana. 

When you watch these kind of films you do get into it with some weariness of having to attend a social studies class. These things are handled the best way when done cinematically without making you feel like being lectured on. I can watch documentaries for that. Beasts of No Nation is in the capable hands of Cary Joji Fukunaga, best known for True Detective Season One (Hate the fact that I've to specify the season), who also did 'Sin Nombre' and 'Jane Eyre' both of which were really good as well. He handles the task of adapting the novel to the screen by giving it a Terence Malick treatment (think The Thin Red Line), albeit with a focused approach by telling it from the perspective of the child soldier character played excellently by Abraham Attah. Idris Elba plays the role of his Commandant who turns out to be quite in the middle bracket of the Chain of Command. We can contrast the film with the shallow social media trend that was 'Stop Kony' campaign which was about surface level deep. 

It was very easy for the film to hog headlines with it being the first Netflix produced one and with it being simul-released on their network. Many big Cinema chains in the US boycotted the film as it violated the 90 window release exclusivity for the theaters. I do believe there is a need for that sort of exclusivity since a film is almost always best watched on a big fucking screen with an audience. But they should get with the times and reduce that exclusivity to maybe 2-4 weeks. Anyway, it is a glorious debut from Netflix.

Overall it is a great watch and excellent performances from all concerned. There is a single shot tracking scene that will rival his similar shot from 'True Detective' in the middle point of the film. In the latter, it did give a show-off vibe, while in this one it adds something significant to the scene and story. Everything is done in a matter of fact way without having to manipulate the audience. The events in are patently sufficient. It is not a matter of choice but of survival. It will be interesting to see if it gets any love from the Academy but I would put a probability of close to zero for that. As for Fukunaga, please come back for True Detective Season Three.  

Rating: 4/5