Beasts of No Nation is a 2015 war film directed by Cary Fukunaga and starring Abraham Atta and Idris Elba. It is a movie that has its strong moments, but is disappointing in the end.
The plot is very problematic. First of all, I never understood why the war itself is something vague here, never properly explained and never specific. We never really learn what it is all about and the country is also unspecific which is such a weird choice. This movie would have been infinitely better had it focused on a specific, real-life African war and that would have made it much more powerful and relevant.
I was disappointed in this movie because it started off so strong. The whole first act is incredible and really well made. Everything is well crafted, you get introduced to the characters in a great way and it is such a great beginning to a film that is almost flawless. However, that all changes in the middle parts where it suddenly becomes this typical war picture with a been there, done that feeling to it. It never has anything about it that differentiates it from other films of this type. It also has too much violence and even an unfortunate child molestation development. But the major problem here is that it is just too boring and too uninspired in its second half and most importantly, the message isn’t present whatsoever. The movie never makes a statement and doesn’t have a point. It is just a depiction of war, but the war isn’t real which is also pointless and the director Cary Fukunaga never has any vision here and, if you don’t count the first act, he never does anything truly remarkable with this material.
The characters are quite good and the acting is also very good. Agu is a realistic and well realized protagonist and Abraham Attah did such an amazing job in his role, stupendous for a child actor. He is much better than Idris Elba here who gives an overrated performance that is never particularly remarkable. And his character is typical. But Attah is the star here and he definitely strengthens the scenes he is in.
Beasts of No Nation is a technically polished piece of work. Everything here looks great form the cinematography to the scenery which is gorgeous to look at. The directing should have been better, but the pacing is mostly good, even though the running time is bloated. The dialogue is also very good and the movie definitely is realistic and an important reminder of war-torn Africa, but a specific war should have been chosen. I disliked the narration here a lot and it annoyed me at times because it was familiar and overly present. But it is a well shot and certainly very well made and good looking movie that unfortunately never has anything to say and a stronger, more sophisticated screenplay would have helped the movie a lot. It is definitely a solid film with some very strong scenes, but is still disappointing overall and quite certainly overrated.