INCLUDE_DATA

BEASTS OF NO NATION… beautiful, brutal, one of the year’s best

Posted on November 6th, 2015
Posted on November 6th, 2015

by Coop Cooper

Netflix has been breaking new ground both in the original content it produces and in the way that content is delivered. They changed the model of serialized shows by releasing all episodes of an entire season at once (a brilliant idea) and made their original shows only available to watch through their online service, securing their dominance over other subscription services. Now Netflix hopes to change the model for releasing original feature films and “Beasts of No Nation” is the film that will push the boundaries of Hollywood distribution and possibly spell doom for the future of major theater chains.

Based on the novel by Uzodinma Iweala, in an unnamed West African country, young Agu (Abraham Attah) is a energetic and imaginative boy who frequently gets into mischief much to the chagrin of his father, an educated man who is a leader in their small village. As civil war approaches, Agu’s father tries to get his family out, but only succeeds in evacuating his wife and younger son, leaving Agu and the oldest son exposed to violence when the government troops arrive. Agu survives the massacre of his village only to be captured by rebel forces lead by the manipulative Commandant (Idris Elba) who enslaves boys, using superstition and mind games to turn Agu and others into soldiers who must kill on command. As Agu becomes more jaded to the horrors he witnesses/commits, his greedy and nefarious Commandant leads the child army further into the heart of darkness.

Any story about children forced to be soldiers is bound to be disturbing, but “Beasts of No Nation” is so beautifully made, terrifically acted and powerful, it is impossible to ignore. Some scenes are extremely difficult to watch, especially when children are forced to commit so many heinous acts, they become desensitized to the violence. The re-integration of children back into society once they have been liberated from these armies will remain a difficult challenge for African countries for years to come. This is illustrated by Agu himself who looks down on an adult woman who is trying to help him, saying that after what he has done and seen, she is like the child and he is like the jaded old man. While he has no way to adequately explain it to her, the pain in his face speaks volumes.

Elba gives an Oscar-worthy supporting performance as the vile Commandant, but for awhile it was unclear as to whether he would be eligible for the honor. Since the film was released simultaneously in 31 theaters along with its online premiere, it is now expected to qualify for Academy consideration, but Netflix obviously intends to persuade the Academy to modify these guidelines for films like “Beasts”. The film received almost no publicity for its theatrical release, a financial hit Netflix was willing to take so it could qualify for the Oscars, but to also encourage viewers to watch the film online which benefits the service far more than box office numbers. With viewers preferring to watch the film online instead of in theaters, Netflix gains more credibility and thus the Academy will be forced to look long and hard at their qualification standards.

Director Cary Joji Fukunaga created and directed the impeccable first season of “True Detective” on HBO and quickly became a Hollywood phenom who could write his own ticket for his next project. “Beasts” is a good fit for his talents as he excels at exploring the dark side of humanity in his work. The film takes a majority of its inspiration from “Apocalypse Now” in more ways than one… The narration, cinematography, the subject matter, even the themes mirror the Francis Ford Coppola war classic. Thankfully it works. “Beasts” is one of the best films of the year.

I must also give high praise to newcomer Abraham Attah for his haunting and heartbreaking portrayal as the young protagonist, Agu. His journey from mischievous child to hardened warrior is so stark, and his performance so mature, he might be up for an award as well.

The most compelling aspect about “Beasts” is how it draws attention to the atrocity of child soldier conscription committed by groups like the RUF in Sierra Leone. It has been covered in other films, but this one may be the most harrowing depiction of the issue so far.

Beasts of No Nation” is currently available on Netflix Instant.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

No Comments •

Comments

Search
Search Form
Trailer for the award-winning short PRISMA…


A corporate promotional VHS tape from 1984 conceals a brain-altering signal which is said to grant increased health, longevity and psychic powers to those who watch it. View at your own risk...

WINNER: SPECIAL JURY PRIZE, 2017 Oxford Film Festival

WINNER: BEST EXPERIMENTAL FILM, 2017 FantaSci Short Film Festival

SEMI-FINALIST: 2017 NanoCon International Science-Fiction Film Festival

NOMINEE: BEST ANIMATION, 2017 End of Days Film Festival

NOMINEE: BEST GRAPHICS, 2017 FantaSci Short Film Festival

OFFICIAL SELECTION:
2017 Crossroads Film Festival
2017 Clarksdale Film Festival
2017 Twisted Dreams Film Festival
2017 Tupelo Film Festival
2017 NanoCon International Sci-Fi Film Festival
2017 FantaSci Short Film Festival
2017 End of Days Film Festival

Trailer for the lost short GOD MAKER…


Northern Mississippi 1932:
In a cabin in the woods, a blind blues guitarist will discover his destiny from a lovesick goddess who seeks to corrupt his soul.

GOD MAKER remains unfinished and in limbo for now, but the trailer expresses the mood and imagery intended for the project...

Coop’s award-winning 48 hour short film trailer for REGRESS…


Told in reverse, this experimental made-in-48-hours film begins with a shocking murder then backtracks (like a viewer rewinding a VHS tape) to reveal the chilling origins of this tragedy.

WINNER: BEST SHORT FILM at the 2013 Clarksdale Film Festival...
NOMINATED: BEST DIRECTING by the 2012 48hr. Guerrilla Film Challenge (international contest)...
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2013 Crossroads Film Festival

Watch Coop’s award-winning short film THE BEST DAY…


WINNER: 2012 MAGNOLIA FILM FESTIVAL "Best Homegrown Film"
WINNER: 2012 SEATTLE TRUE INDEPENDENT FILM FESTIVAL "Best Scream"

OFFICIAL SELECTION:
2012 OXFORD FILM FESTIVAL
2012 CLARKSDALE FILM FESTIVAL
2012 CROSSROADS FILM FESTIVAL
2012 NORTHEAST MISSISSIPPI FILM FESTIVAL
2012 ATLANTA INDIE HORROR FILM FESTIVAL
2012 OTHERFEST
2012 MISSISSIPPI INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL
2012 SUN AND SAND FILM FESTIVAL

Morgan Freeman asks Coop a question at THE BEST DAY premiere! Video below…


My short film THE BEST DAY premiered in October 2011 at the Delta Cinema in Clarksdale, Mississippi.

Little did I know I had a special guest in the audience who was about to ask me a question during the Q&A. Yep, I got a little flustered when I saw who it was.

The Small Town Critic’s SCREENWRITING SERVICES
Follow Coop on Twitter...
    follow me on twitter
    Follow smalltowncritic on Twitter
    Archives
    Subscribe via Email!

    Enter your email address:

    Delivered by FeedBurner

    Subscribe via RSS feed!