If you want to watch real horror and feel timely terror, Netflix’s first original feature reveals the story of an innocent youngster who is recruited into the world of child soldiers. In an unspecified West African country, pre-teen Agu (Abraham Attah) describes himself as “a good boy from a good family.” His father is a teacher; Agu and his brother have been raised as a devout Christians. Read on…
Suddenly, refugees come through his town, followed by soldiers, who kill whomever crosses their path, including Agu’s family and friends. After fleeing into the bush, Agu is caught and delivered to the demonic Commandant (Idris Elba), the intimidating, manipulative leader of an anti-government militia.
Given little to eat and no uniforms, Agu befriends another lad, silent Strika (Emmanuel ‘King Kong’ Nil Adom Quaye). Along with others, they’re indoctrinated, armed and dispatched to ambush an enemy caravan. As part of his initiation, the Commandant orders Agu to execute a prisoner with a machete.
Before long, Agu has adapted to this new life, filled with sexual abuse and violent village raids in which success is measured by the number of innocent men, women and children massacred without mercy.
A particularly gruesome trick he’s taught is how to put a grenade in someone’s mouth and wait to see what happens. Drugs are a part of the brainwashing ritual, causing orgiastic hallucinations in which Agu is not butchering human beings but demons.
Adapting Nigerian-American Uzodinma Iweala debut 2005 novel, writer/director/cinematographer Cary Joji Fukunaga (“Sin Nombre,” “Jane Eyre,” HBO’s “True Detective”) filmed in Ghana on a $6 million budget, recruiting and training a local crew.
He camped out in the jungle with 200 non-pro actors, including newcomer Abraham Attah and former child soldiers from Sierra Leone and Liberia.
Delivering a powerful performance as the fearsome, despicable Commandant, Idris Elba noted, “What happened to this child is happening every day to a lot of people.”
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Beasts of No Nation” is an intense, severely scary 7, filled with explicitly brutal, nightmarish atrocities.