Wednesday, February 3, 2016
Review of Beasts of No Nation: Childhood's End
Why isn't this movie in any category at the Academy Awards?
Most polite guess: enough voters thought if the movie was made by a streaming service, it's disqualified. Even if it was shown in theaters, it couldn't be considered.
More accurate guess: it's just too scary for most of the voters.The BAFTAs and Screen Actors Guild recognized it, though. They weren't scared.
This is really an intense movie about a child in a West African country, and his journey from a child to a soldier in wartime. Agu, played by Abraham Attah, is enjoying his childhood while in a war somewhere in West Africa. Suddenly, his world is torn apart when the war overruns his village, and government soldiers kill his father and brother. He runs into the jungle and is captured by another rebel force, the Native Defense Force. It's led by the Commandant, played by Idris Elba. Seeing him train and command kids to fight is amazing. He's the biggest man there, with the biggest presence and authority. No way could you say no to him. He's kind of like a military version of Fagin of Oliver Twist.
From there, we see how Agu loses his soul, then his identity, to the cause. It happens when the Commandant orders Agu to kill someone, but even more so when they do something else. It's enough to make Agu more of a killer. Through all of this, he talks to God, quite aware of what he has done. He wonders what happened to his mom, and whether he will see her again. He'a also aware if he's ever captured, he can't go back to being a child again. That's what war does. Attah is heart-breaking as a child who grows up too quickly
This is a very intense movie, and it would make sense if Oscar voters were a bit too scared over a subject like war and turning children into soliders. Seeing kids that, in another country, would talk about Drake and Jay-Z instead of firing mortars and shooting innocent civilians is a tough thing to see. Yet the movie does a fine job showing an ugly part of the world and who the real victims are.
While this movie was snubbed by the Oscars, it's still in good company. Entertainment Weekly points out a few glaring omissions like Trainwreck and Crimson Peak. Still, Elba should have been in the final cut for Supporting Actor.