BEASTS OF NO NATION – Review by Susan Granger

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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.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.