Not Rated | 137 min
Director: Cary Joji Fukunaga
Writers: Cary Joji Fukunaga (screenplay), Uzodinma Iweala (based on the novel by)
by Jason Koenigsberg
Netflix is building an entertainment empire that can rival HBO, Showtime, and now they are going after the movie studios trying to cut in on their action the way they did for television with House of Cards. Their original production Beasts of No Nation is a powerful and intense drama with a menacing performance from the always reliable Idris Elba. There is talk of him earning an Oscar nomination for this film and he would deserve one, the only problem is whether he gets nominated for Best Actor or Best Supporting Actor. He is in most of the film and hardly should qualify as a supporting role, but whatever Netflix decides to promote him for to get him some well earned recognition is just fine.
The movie itself is about a boy living in an African village that gets taken over by the government warlords. He manages to escape into the jungle where he is taken by a different band of warriors and killers led by Idris Elba as their Commandant. They are creating an army and nurturing the young men into being their soldiers, which act more like brutal murderers. This is similar to the atrocities Pol Pot had his Khmer Rouge Army commit in Cambodia by brainwashing children to murder their elders. The film has a similar vibe to The Killing Fields (1984), which was based on the Cambodian genocide, but it really feels more akin to the phenomenal Brazilian film City of God (2003) in terms of its filmmaking style and the fact that we are seeing this story through the eyes of a child makes it even more disturbing. The violence he commits is very unsettling and graphic on top of the fact that it is being carried out by someone who should be an innocent child going to school and playing with his friends. Instead he is shooting at people with guns and driving machete blades through people because he was commanded to do so.
This powerful drama is not without its flaws, they never really say what African country this is taking place in, but maybe that was intentional, nor do they give a time period when this is taking place. Judging by the clothes and television it could be happening during the 1980’s but since a lot of third world countries are very behind in terms of Western style and technology, this film could take place anytime in the past thirty years. Regardless, Beasts of No Nation is a powerful and important film with astounding visuals and cinematography that is well worth checking out.
Beasts of No Nation is currently available to stream through Netflix.