Beasts of No Nation (2015): Fukunaga’s War


Cary Joji Fukunaga, the director, writer, producer and cinematographer of Beasts of No Nation, has an eye for striking images. Which is a good thing because war films rely on them perhaps more so than any other genre. From Paths of Glory (1957) to Apocalypse Now (1979)—two films that Beasts owes a clear debt to—war films have always relied on images to do the impossible: convey the horror of war. This then prompts the question ‘what is the aim of a war movie?’ There’s a quote attributed to Francois Truffaut: “there’s no such thing as an anti-war movie”. If war is so horrific that it can never be done justice on screen, does any attempt to portray it necessarily undersell the trauma and end up romanticising, or at least prettifying, it instead?

These are questions that Beasts never confronts, but Fukunaga chooses to make his task even greater by delivering the story of this entire war in an unnamed African country, at an unspecified time, through the eyes of a young boy. This is both a strength and a weakness. The boy is Agu (Abraham Attah), and the films opens with him and his friends playing in his village that is, as yet, untouched by the conflict affecting the wider country. This scene pulls a sly trick, though it might be unintentional, by appearing to us through the hollowed-out body of an old TV set—this being the first Netflix original film production.

Read the full review at Frame Rated

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