Thursday, February 25, 2016

Indie Review: Beasts of No Nation (2015)

               'Beasts Of No Nation' Is Packed With Luminous Imagery Into The Treacherous Unknown

                   While the film is not packed with as much graphic violence as I thought there would be, it is still not the best film to watch when you're having a wonderful day.
      Beasts of No Nation follows the story of an African child named Agu (Abraham Attah) who, after the death of his father, becomes forced into becoming a soldier of a civil war by an unnamed Commandant (Idris Elba) once Agu becomes captured by him.

      I'll start off by discussing the performances by the two main actors. First is Abraham Attah as Agu. Attah is both a simple yet subtle revelation as a child soldier who is forced into becoming a soulless killing machine yet at heart is still just a lost kid. Here is hoping this kid has a bright future in this business because he really carries this film on his shoulders.

      Next, I'll get into Idris Elba as Commandant. Somebody call the police because Elba got ROBBED of a Supporting Actor nom/win. Wow, is he a force of nature in this! Although, he is not a force of nature in the same manner as J.K. Simmons in Whiplash, who is a forceful dominant monster. Elba does capture a fiery spirit that his character has with how he rallies his battalion. But through his commanding cool, Elba is able to peel back the manipulative layers to Commandant and reveal how he is able to take Agu under his wing. Commandant is a bat out of hell, yet thanks to Elba's performance, you still can't take your eyes out of him.

     Next is the cinematography by director/writer/producer Cary Joji Fukunaga. The cinematography is absolutely beautiful. While the film does depict a horrific war zone, thanks to the way Fukunaga lenses it, you can never keep your eyes off the screen because of the long takes showing some of the colorful landscapes that our main characters are in. Fukunaga's use of long takes also helps make for some masterful storytelling. There is a scene where Agu is armed up and ready for battle and as he is walking with his battalion, a couple of U.N. vehicles are driving by with the passengers in it just staring as they drive by. They don't stop or anything. They just keep driving and even though that is one small moment, you wonder whether they keep driving by out of fear or ignorance. Another one of the film's best shot sequences is when after Agu's father is killed and he runs into the jungle, once the camera zooms out to focus on Agu running into the deserted jungle, it focuses on the fire-ridden landscape further behind Agu as he keeps running.

     There were a few points that involved Agu's voice over narration that I felt were sort of unnecessary. There were points where it was sort of needed. But other scenes didn't really require Agu's narration.

     Overall, Beasts of No Nation is a superbly acted and beautifully shot depiction of an unnamed African war zone. Thanks to how director Cary Juji Fukunaga never has the camera leave our main hero, it feels like we are taken along with him on his long treacherous journey. Even if the journey isn't pretty, it still makes us more aware of a part of the world that we never pay much attention to and gives us perspective.

Grade: A-