A distressing, yet riveting drama from Cary Joji Fukunaga (Sin Nombre) filmed in eastern portions of Ghana concerns young Agu (well-acted by Abraham Attah) who is taken from his loved ones and has to serve an insurgent battalion. It's an often compelling adaptation of a 2005 Uzodinma Iwela book that may lack the true centrality of its antecedent and a life-like open-ended postlude.
In Beasts of No Nation (also available on VOD and uploading from streaming media provider Netflix who has global distribution rights) with its perpetual murderousness and cruelty, a starkly stylized naturalistic depiction emerges on a vividly rendered wide-screen frame. The hues can help project Agu's confusion and coming-of-age amid a civil war in an unspecified African locale sometimes with unforeseen pulchritude in what can be seen as a surreal nightmarish (with molestation and drug use) take on Dickens.
Idris Elba (No Good Deed, Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom) is the fiercely aberrant Commandant who gradually becomes paternally impressionable for the boy as atrocities unfold.
For some it may rival his intimidating drug lord "Stringer" Bell on the popular HBO series The Wire. Fukunaga (also a director on HBO's True Detective) captures some of the same bleakness of the human spirit of the little-known tiny-budgeted "The Terrorist" from Santosh Sivan. Yet, traces of humanity come forth as the aesthetics around tragedy insinuates a fine line between optimism and harrowing torment that is nonetheless commanding and commendable from its extremes that open the eyes of an orphaned boy.
|Beast of No Nation||B+||B+|