Beasts of No Nation: Netflix and No Chill

If you’re looking to take a break from homecoming week, Netflix has got you covered


In the opening sequence of the new Netflix original film Beasts of No Nation, Agu (played by Abraham Attah in an incredible acting debut) and company attempt to sell what they call “Imagination TV.” What it is is a tv frame without a screen, and as users change the genre, adorable African boys stand on the other side of the television and act accordingly. Surely the invention reflects the imagination of director-writer-cinematographer Cary Joji Fukunaga.


Agu’s life is dramatically changed by the events that follow. He lives in a war-torn African country, and as his neutral village is invaded by the government’s soldiers, his father and brother are killed, forcing him to flee into the jungle. There, he joins the rebel forces out of desire to avenge his family, led by the nameless commandant (outstandingly portrayed by Idris Elba). Over the course of the film, Agu evolves from the once innocent Imagination TV salesman, to a belligerent young soldier jaded by extreme violence and a frequent user of “brown-brown,” the notorious mixture of cocaine and gunpowder often used in African countries at war.


Beasts meaningfully illuminates the effects of war, both on a country and on its people. Uzodinma Iweala, who wrote the book on which it is based, purposefully doesn’t name the country in which the war is taking place, to show that all the civil wars in Africa are one and the same, be it the Biafra War in Nigeria or the revolutions in Sierra Leone and Burkina Faso. The film makes for a compelling drama that philosophy lovers will definitely appreciate (the book originally started as a Harvard thesis paper) and it simultaneously captures the essence of a good historical drama.


Beautifully shot and full of vibrant colors, it’s safe to say I loved everything about Beasts of No Nation. The acting is incredibly moving, the story is full of substance, and the cinematography and direction are near perfect. After watching season 1 of HBO’s True Detective, I concluded that Cary Joji Fukunaga was the next great American filmmaker and storyteller. His work in Beasts of No Nation solidifies that claim. When the commandant’s number 2 first presents Agu to the group of guerillas as harmless, the commandant corrects him, “A boy has hands to strangle and fingers to pull triggers… A boy is very very dangerous.” No words as poignant have yet to be said in any films I’ve seen this year, allowing Beasts to be my favorite 2015 film thus far. Also, a small warning to readers, the film is a bit violent.