MESSAGE IN THE MOVIES
In Theaters and Netflix Streaming
Directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga. Starring Abraham Attah, Idris Elba
It is hard for most of us to understand the brutal world of African mercenary soldiers, guns for hire who work for whoever will pay for their help during a civil war. It is even harder to imagine armies that would enter into a neighboring village and shoot everyone in sight. Harder, still, to see children recruited into such an army and abused, bullied, and turned into killers.
This is the world of Beasts of No Nation and it may be a place that you would prefer not to visit. Based on an acclaimed novel by Uzodinma Iweala, the film tells the story of Agu (Attah), a young boy who flees his village (after seeing his family and friends slaughtered) and is taken prisoner by a group of soldiers under the leadership of a man who is known as the Commandant (Elba). The Commandant tells the boys that they will be trained to become warriors. They will also be introduced to the drug called brown-brown (heroin) and some of the children will also be sexually abused.
The film is mostly told (with the exception of a couple of pivotal scenes) from the viewpoint of Agu, who is a typical preteen boy who loves his brother and family and uses his imagination to pass the time in his small village. When village and family are taken away from him, he must use his wits to survive. Abraham Attah gives one of the most nuanced performances from a child actor that you will ever see. Idris Elba (who has also acted as Nelson Mandela) also provides us with a complicated character that is at times reassuring and at other times intimidating and cruel.
The movie was filmed in Ghana (home for Attah and many other actors in the film), but the location of the story is in an unnamed West African country that might be Sierra Leone or Liberia. Scenes of natural beauty are intertwined with large battles and intimate acts of violence.
Although the movie depicts children doing terrible things, it should be noted that most of the brutality takes place off-screen, with sound effects standing in for visual horror.
This is one of the best films of 2015 and will be seen primarily on the video streaming service Netflix. (Major theater chains refused to allow it to be shown, since they were not given the traditional 90-day exclusive screening rights.)
Beasts of No Nation is an epic account of evil unfettered. There is some hope at the end of the film, but it is a fragile hope, nonetheless.
This is the world that Christ came to save and there are people of faith who are speaking out and saving many children from the brutality of war. May we keep them in our prayers and do all that we can do to offer a better way.
Three halos: A heartbreaking depiction of child soldiers in Africa and one boy’s journey to survive.
Five pitchforks: Genocide, exploitation of children (including drug addiction and sexual abuse), pervasive swearing, extreme violence, the name of God is invoked to justify the brutality.
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Rev. Bruce Batchelor-Glader
COMMENTS! Do you have comments about this movie or movie review?
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