Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Beasts of No Nation

The test of a great movie is whether I keep watching the screen through all the credits until it finally goes black. That doesn't happen often, but it happened last night with Beasts of No Nation, the incredible slice-of-life film about a boy soldier in an unnamed African civil war. (Why do we call these lads "child soldiers"? There are no girls among them.) Both Agu, the boy, and the Commandant are superlative actors, both worthy of an Oscar, and the mute boy called Strika is impressive as well.

Agu becomes a soldier because otherwise he will die. What better motive could there possibly be? He learns to kill because that's what a soldier is required to do.

As for the band he is forced to join, it goes through a similar evolution, from part of a serious rebellion to a free-lance force, because making war is what the Commandment knows how to do. So the Commandant too becomes a Beast of No Nation. No happy ending is possible for beasts of no nation, yet the movie makers somehow manufacture one for Agu, who is turned back into a Boy at the end. I found that unconvincing. "I saw terrible things," he tells a man who might be a UN psychologist; "I did terrible things." Perhaps. But does the Beast know that his actions are terrible?

No matter! It's a great movie. See it, on Netflix or at the few cinemas that are screening it.


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