The Cary Fukunaga-directed drama about a young West African boy who finds himself a child soldier in a war, has been making the rounds on the festival circuit to critical acclaim. This past week, it premiered at the Toronto Film Festival to raucous applause, generating even moreOscar buzz than it already had.
The film is a masterfully-executed onscreen portrayal of the child soldier narrative. Fukunaga’s direction and writing, coupled with stellar, heartbreaking performances by Idris Elba and child actor Abraham Attah (winner of the Best Young Actor prize at the Venice Film Festival), have resulted in a movie as beautiful as it is brutal to watch. As director and DOP Fukunaga uses the visual flourishes that made his first season of “True Detective” so breathtaking – his use of violence is merciless, but deliberate.
As a piece of filmmaking standing on its own, “Beasts of No Nation” is an exciting example of how streaming services like Netflix have an opportunity to develop content no one has ever seen before. And yet, does the skill and passion that clearly went into the film erase its place in a media landscape that consistently shines a spotlight on stories of African misery? Yes, it is a gorgeous film – but so what? Is it really doing or saying anything we haven’t seen before?