Film Review: "Beasts of No Nation"

Saw this new film from Cary Joji Fukunaga, one of my favorite contemporary filmmakers whose visual compositions and storytelling prowess I truly admire.

His films have this certain aesthetic that lures you in until you are lost in the story and you find yourself virtually immersed in the world that he has created for you.

In "Beasts of No Nation", he takes us to war-torn Africa, to a story of a young boy who witnesses his family murdered by the very government that's supposed to protect them. He escapes and falls into the hands of a violent warlord who trains him in the ways of the war. He becomes a soldier and a murderer. He is forced to become a man in the body of a helpless, scared little boy.

Despite the blood curdling violence, this movie is about the loss of childhood, of innocence, and that is an act more violent than the graphic scenes of boys hacking men to death, or of a woman shot in the head while being raped, or of a young girl trampled to death by a mob of angry boys.

We all know that war can be ugly. But this movie not only shows us how ugly it can get but it takes us to hell. It's horrific and what makes it truly scary is the numbing effect the movie has on you after being subjected to it and you'll feel as if you are the one trapped in it, unable to escape, unable to run. And even if you already find bloody conflicts despicable, this movie will make you abhor it even more.

This film shares some thematic similarity with "War Witch", the Oscar-nominated film from Canada that's also set in Africa and I find both equally masterful and important.

"Beasts of No Nation" bowed in theaters and on Netflix yesterday. It's a major Oscar contender and I wouldn't be surprised if Idris Elba gets nommed for his compelling performance as the rebel leader only known as the Commandant. But the film's greatest performance was delivered by newcomer Abraham Attah, who plays the lead role, Agu. He inhabits his character with a commanding mix of tenderness and ferocity that even if you see pools of blood being rained down on the pavement or walls splattered with blown body parts, when you his eyes, you can't help yourself but glimpse some hope residing in it and we, in turn, pray for his deliverance. I can ramble on forever. Just watch it.

Rating: 5 Stars!

Raymond Lo

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