Top 100 Films – 78. Beasts of No Nation (2015)

One of Netflix’s best original films pits Idris Elba as a leader of child soldiers embroiled in a civil war.

An unnamed country but similarities can be drawn with the Rwandan genocide and other horrible African civil wars. Beasts of No Nation follows a young boy named Agu whose village is invaded and his family are killed and he is recruited by the invaders who train him to be a soldier at a very young age. The film follows Agu growing up around this sort of horrific environment.

This is one of the most recent films on my top 100 list just because of the impact of this film. This was the first film from Netflix that proved to me that the company could produce some hard hitting and fantastic original content. At this time Netflix was known for it’s strong TV shows and this to me was and still is Netflix best film they have released.

Beasts of No Nation is vast and grand in its scale complimented by the wide and beautiful shots of Ghana, of where it was film but not set. It was a good idea not to locate this film, this allows the viewer to not tie this to an event but hold it relevant to some of the atrocities that has happened in Africa in modern history. The film portrays a cruel juxtaposition with the majestic and vibrant landscapes of Africa with the vicious horrors of child soldiers, trafficking and drugs.

The cast are magnificent, the child actors act like they are professionals in the business. Abraham Nil Attah who plays Agu has a bright future, in this film his acting is so primal and raw that if you told me that he was an actual child soldier before the film I would totally believe you.  He had a small role in Spiderman: Homecoming (2017) so look out for him in future projects.

Idris Elba has so much power on the screen, for every time he appears he commands the scene and it is impossible to look away from his presence. He builds himself up as a mythical figure, a god, an immortal that the child soldiers worship. Where the films works is that the two best performances are Attah and Elba and the central plot is the relationship between the two. The paternal figure of the commandant played by Elba as he entraps Agu into a false sense of love, fed by drugs and coercing is fantastically played throughout. The commandant plays a huge role in Agu’s growth and his journey usually for worse.

I really do implore everyone to give this a watch. It is not easy to watch as the majority of the themes are vicious, horrific and putrid but the performances and the scenery create a wonderful oxymoronic emotional watch of the trials and horrors of a child that loses his family and forces to become a pawn in someone else game. Beasts of No Nation is a modern classic that truly proves that Netflix is here to stay when producing and releasing films.

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