BEASTS OF NO NATION Review
Director: Cary Fukunaga
Genre: War, Drama
Visually breathtaking and reinforced through spectacular performances by its child actors and a terrifyingly committed Idris Elba, Cary Fukunaga’s BEASTS OF NO NATION is arguably the first definitive film on the subject of Africa’s child soldiers and the socio-political turmoil that has brought humanity to this point. Stylish, momentous, and visceral to a T, BEASTS OF NO NATION is a fantastically engaging experience, and although it wears out its welcome, it functions to reaffirm Fukunaga’s talent as a director.
And cutting off the top-knot reaffirms his worth as a person
Where BEASTS OF NO NATION succeeds is in style and presentation. Although many films have attempted to showcase the civil wars in African countries, they would often treat their subjects in more contained settings, holding back on exhibiting the greater, epic scope of these horrific war crimes (e.g. HOTEL RWANDA), or would suffer from lackluster narrative execution and character-writing (e.g. BLOOD DIAMOND). BEASTS OF NO NATION’s greatest asset is that it successfully tackles all of the untapped corners of this conflict, focusing on the life of a young boy and his adoption into a rebel militia.
The film’s attention to detail is spellbinding, ensuring to showcase the entire “death and rebirth” process of its protagonist, leaving no gruesome detail unexplored and thoroughly examining the brainwashing that these sensitive children undergo. It’s a fantastic feat of writing and dramatic execution, and represents the very best of Fukunaga’s directing talent.
“If only, if only,” the woodpecker sighed…
Where the film breaks down is in the execution of its narrative beats, stumbling during the third act and never picking up the brisk pace that the traumatic opening presents. Although it remains visually refined from start to finish, slowly but surely descending into a progressively more hellish landscape akin to a 2015 iteration of APOCALYPSE NOW (or dare one say HEART OF DARKNESS), its finale ultimately cheats its audience out of a satisfying conclusion, coming to a rather uneventful resolution of an emotional conflict that can’t possibly be resolved as simply as Fukunaga makes it out to be.
Although BEASTS OF NO NATION doesn’t fall victim to the traditional genre trappings of anti-war films, it does invent some of its own for this particular sub-genre, losing the interest of its audience through some rather ham-fisted voice over and drug withdrawal scenes. Fukunaga covers all of his bases in showcasing the entire life of a child soldier, but he concludes his narrative rather lazily. Nonetheless, this doesn’t detract from the absolutely stellar performances and jaw-dropping visual style, allowing for Netflix to cement their reputation as a juggernaut production company to be reckoned with.