Beasts of No Nation
Release Date: September 3, 2015.
Running Time: 2 Hours 17 Minutes.
Idris Elba is absolutely unrelenting as the leader of a squad of child soldiers in an unnamed African country undergoing civil war. The type of brutality inherent in a man who can rip children from their families and train them to be mercenaries comes across the screen with a menace that has rarely been matched in modern-day cinema. Elba plays "The Commandant" with a glorious, sinister viciousness that literally explodes off the screen. This is an actor who has charisma to spare, and who has a proven track record of playing maniacs with a subtle intensity that has made his characters so memorable.
Kudos also go to the child actors who were recruited for this film. The main protagonists of this child army are Agu (Araham Atta)and his friend Strika (Abraham Nii Adom Quaye). Agu was kidnapped after his family was killed, and the transformation from little boy playing with his friends to ruthless child soldier is a sad, depressing, and chilling one. The Commandant has his own idealism and ambitions tossed aside as mere collateral damage during peace negotiations that have no room for someone like him. By the time the film ends, he is left alone, a warloard without a war, a Commandant without troops to command. Caught between the embattled forces, the politicians attempting to negotiate peace, and the UN Security Council, he was bound to be tossed aside. The power of Elba's performance is felt most when his world begins to collapse around him, when he realizes he was used just as his superiors ordered him to use the children under his command. Even though this is a work of fiction, the child soldier phenomenon has been a frequently recurring and disturbing trend. Here we are able to see it up close, and it is brutal. This film is a stunning achievement, both for the screenplay and for the marvelous acting.
*As an aside, Netflix is seriously hitting it out of the park with some of their own original feature presentations, this being one of their best.
Child soldiers on patrol...
"The Commandant" and Agu...