Beasts of No Nation
The Good
  • Idris Elba and Abraham Attah are doing an amazing acting job
  • A movie shot for only $ 6 M and still looking that beautiful delivers a lot of praise
  • An important yet hard to watch story
The Bad
  • The script has a few weaknesses in building up the story arch
  • Overall a very hard movie to watch
4.2Overall Score

As Netflix starts to show studios around the world how TV shows are being done, it seemed to be inevitable that the same thing would occur with movies at some point as well. And Beasts of No Nation is the first big exclamation point in this category. What is all about:

A drama based on the experiences of Agu, a child soldier fighting in the civil war of an unnamed African country. (

The topic of depicting violence and in particular child soldiers in Africa is highly contemporary and has been a centerpiece of cinema for quite some time now – looking back at great movies like Hotel Rwanda, Blood Diamond just to name a few. This film now takes a different approach based on the novel of Uzodinma Iweala – it does not show only the brutality of child soldiers and violence in Africa but takes a look beyond of what it takes to transform an innocent child into a brutal killing machine.

Director Cary Fukunaga takes his time in building up the main character Agu – showing his everyday life with his friends and family; he lives a poor yet happy family life. During the uproars in his town, his family is torn apart and he has to stay back with his fathaaa who then is executed by soldiers of the national revolution (a fictional revolution in an unnamed African country). As Agu flees into the jungle, he is picked up by the opposite side of the revolution and the charismatic head of the platoon of the rebellion, the Commandant in yet another nomination-worthy performance by Idris Elba. This marks the starting point in the journey of Agu losing his innocent childhood and turning into a monstrous child solider.


There has been a ton of buzz around “Beasts” in the blogosphere as it defines the official entrance of the streaming giant Netflix who already has changed one industry forever and has become a major player as a TV studio being now basically en par with HBO. In addition to the raving reviews on Rottentomatoes, there was basically no way around watching this film – but going into the movie, I knew it would not be a crowdpleaser and thus I probably chose to procrastinate as long as I could – but now I went through it with my eyes wide open (and that is not always very easy) – which basically brings me to the movie’s praise.

Amazing cinematography

Beasts-of-No-Nation-final-trailerA lot of praise should go to Fukunaga who already showed his talent for capturing landscape in the most powerful in the first season of True Detective. This movie was shot on a complete shoestring budget of 6 million US-Dollar (and it looks so much more expensive). The African landscape is captured hopeless and scary but at the same time extremely beautiful way. Aside form landscape shots a big part of this film is obviously the gruesome violence and that is captured with the same level of precision and attention to (brutal) detail. What did get to me the most however was the display of the soldier’s high as they go on their killing spree – extremely violent and powerful. But of course, after the movie you will not be in the most chipper mood – so keep that in mind before clicking the Watch Now button on your Netflix device,

Superb acting

wpid-film-review-beasts-of-no-nation1Ok, I admit that I have a man crush on Idris Elba and thus probably can’t objectively judge his performance. But man, first of this guy completely nails the African accent like pro (as far as I can judge it) – aside from him almost dying during the shoot of Beasts, he really is diving into his role as the Commandant which he plays just amazing (cruel yet loving, devoted to the cause and power hungry like a real politician). He probably is one of the biggest Oscar snubs of this year’s Academy ceremony (then again I am not objective here). But to me the real star of this film is Agu – as he truly shows the audience the transformation of turning from a happy innocent child into a killing machine who is basically dead inside. And he makes the transformation realistic enough for the audience to sympathize with his fate – it really wasn’t his faul, he basically was at the wrong place in the wrong time and found a new home – and well that home was war.

Unstable story arch

While the movie mostly focuses at Agu’s transformation into a Beast of No Nation with all the terrible things happening to him, I did have an issue with the overall story arch of the film while watching it. It purely focuses on how Agu turns into a monster and all the terrible things he does and is being exposed to. But other than that, there is no dramatic climax. But the movie achieves one much more important thing; it makes you think and it makes you think longer than just a few hours. Because after having watched this film, you think: “Well shit, this is actually happening all the time and it is just awful because you (or anyone for that matter) can’t do anything about it”. The world is a cruel place and this unnamed country in Africa is an even more cruel place where kids are being subject to inexplicable violence and cruelty and with no wrongdoing of their parents, they take down this awful route of child soldiers. Yes, this is a story which has been told before but it is an important of which we should be reminded every now and then. And the movie does this in a gruesomely effective and painful-to-watch kind of way.

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