Beasts Of No Nation Review - Why The Netflix Movie Is A Masterpiece

[LFF 2015] The movie that will change everything.

Rating: ˜…˜…˜…˜…˜… From its very first second, Beasts Of No Nation is ground-breaking. The Netflix logo, something incredibly familiar to fans of Daredevil and House Of Cards, plays and there's that strange feeling of the homely familiar in an outside location, like actually seeing the Star Wars trailer on the big screen. Yes, this is "the Neflix movie"; the first Netflix Original feature film, which will forego standard distribution (for the most part) and instead be made instantly available for streaming on October 16th. This is a game-changer. TV has already moved from a single live event to a "when you want" medium, thanks in no small part to Netflix, and now the streaming giant has set its sights on the cinema. Is it a good thing? That's the topic for another article, but, regardless, it's important. The film could be utter tat and still wind up being the most influential movie of 2015. But it isn't. In fact, Beasts Of No Nation is a freaking masterpiece. What's so stark about the film is how unexpected it is as Netflix's first film. Not that they're ones to shy away from complex, adult content (if anything, their Originals are more mature than what even HBO can offer), but for them to go for as their first film is a bold move. It's the story of Agu, a boy thrust into the soldier's life during a civil war in an unnamed West African country (literal title alert) and, contrary to what an "informed" audience member at my screening loudly verbalised before, it pulls no punches in the pre-teen's moral descent and rise up the ranks. So no, not a Netflix and Chill contender.
The clear genius of the film is Cary Fukunaga as the director. The man behind the camera for high-point-of-the-golden-age True Detective Season 1 (and totally absent for the lacklustre second), he is a visual maestro. There's a clear meticulousness to his construction, yet he shoots it all with a restraint that makes it feel as natural as the characters eventually treat killing. He particularly delights in playing with the balance of power, keen to show the fallibility behind the vaguey defined barriers all the characters create for themselves. And yes, there is a long take. Two in fact. Neither are as technically exciting as the six minute episode-topper fom True Detective, but both pack more of an important and emotional punch. When the rest of cinema is using extended takes simply because digital cameras and CGI stitching make it possible, Fukunaga goes practical and ensures they are imbued with purpose. Idris Elba, the film's one masthead actor, is totally convincing as a commandant who demands strong loyalty from his troops, but, while he isn't outacted, the really impressive turn is from Abraham Attah as Agu. He is our eyes into this land, which provokes some of the film's biggest moral questions; the breadth of personality is phenomenal as he seamlessly conveys the falls from regular kid to cold-hearted killer. And I would bet that all stems from Fukunaga's vision. Beasts Of No Nation is ground-breaking. Not just because it marks a new age of film distribution, but also the ascension of its director to the status of modern great. Seen as part of the London Film Festival 2015.
Beasts Of No Nation is available on Netflix from October 16th.

Film Editor (2014-2016). Loves The Usual Suspects. Hates Transformers 2. Everything else lies somewhere in the middle. Once met the Chuckle Brothers.