Beasts of No Nation explore civil war in an unnamed African country, it has a strong message about the perils of war that it tries hard to put across but fails to do so through a lack of bite and horrific scenes that have no effect on a modern desensitised audience (or maybe just me).

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Beginning in a small time we are introduced to young Agu (Abraham Attah) who lives in a small town trying their best to avoid the war ongoing around them. This proves impossible and when the war arrives Agu finds himself recruited to a army battalion commanded by a threatening Commandant (Idris Elba). Agu finds that his childhood is over as the Commandant turns a frail child into a merciless boy-soldier.

The film tries hard to shock the audience with its portrayal of the brutality of war – it is a film filled with ungratutious – but still gory – deaths and there are several scenes in which characters morality are questioned. However it doesn’t offer anything new to truly shock an audience into action. The entire thing feels exactly the same as any other war movie and whilst I’m sure an audience knows that war is a terrible thing the film does little to increase the awareness of this fact.

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Modern day cinematic audiences are used to seeing death on our screens, often in a comedic fashion, this makes it difficult for a director to shock us with brutality as we’ve seen it all before and it just doesn’t feel as real as perhaps it should.

Everything that’s good about of this film comes from the performance of Idris Elba or his interaction with other characters. From his first appearance Elba dominates the screen with a fantastic prescence and proceeds to drive the film forward in a truly wonderful performance. There’s been much talk about his snub at the OSCAR’S and I can see why as it is an extremely memorable performance and role.

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The most interesting thing about the film though is its decision to not name the country the war is happening in. This adds an element of intrigue and also helps showcase that this sort of war is a typical thing around the world and should be stopped… we also never find out who exactly Agu is fighting for and whether he is on the good side or the bad side. It seems as if everyone is killing each other for no real reason. The film also introduces politics and the UN towards the end a politicians line ‘This war is about public image now’ is one of the few lines to really send the films message across.

A film which tries its best to provide something new, but misses it mark and is ultimately all too familiar.

6/10