‘Beasts of No Nation’ Summary & Analysis – A War Against Children

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Beasts of No Nation, eponymously named after a book, is a film tracing the turmoils of a supposed Sierra Leone. Starring Abraham Attah and Idris Elba, the director Fukunaga dive deep into the horrors of war. The film received several Academy Award nominations. Elba won the BAFTA and Golden Globe for the best actor in a supporting role.

What is war? It’s the animalistic mind and egotistical maniac minds who wish to assert dominance over the other. And while the animals and beasts fight maul each other. The younglings wait for someone to take away the fear, unaware of the reasons for the war they endure. Then comes the point where the endurance becomes futile, and the beast inside you runs amok, multiplying the deaths and adding to the abomination of the outer world and your inner self.


Agu’s Abyss

Children are the most adaptive amongst all of us. They are innovative, eager to find a way around the obstacles, overlooking the doubts, and persistence empowered Agu to adapt to a crumbling nation amidst a civil war. An ordinary boy living with his parents and siblings, dancing and playing around the fields, meets fate decided by men in elegant rooms which unleashed the war, flipping Agu and his family’s life, while the heinous mutilation of his childhood persisted. The rebel forces took control of his village, and they were not taking any prisoners. It was a sheer bloody massacre!

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The utter chaos and madness make the boy flee. He bumps into a guerilla skirmish on this run for survival, where he meets Commandant, played beautifully by Elba. The boy joins the battalion, and to prepare for the upcoming war, his childhood innocence has to die. While half of it was chopped off by Agu, the rest was the molestation. 

The war ends, leaving behind the PTSD and anxiety of the days bygone. Meanwhile, Agu died and was reborn every day.  


Cast and Crew

The film’s casting made the premise even more lustrous as Abraham Attah’s innocence as Agu complimented the fierce Idris Elba. Director Cary Fukunaga’s signature touch makes the film more realistic. With his moving camera angles and visual tweaking, the film breathes with credibility. It allows the viewers to feel the angst of the protagonist. The line between realism and surrealism becomes invisible, and that is Fukunaga’s brilliance. 

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Fukunaga spent seven years working on this film and stumbled upon the eponymous book by Uzodinma Iweala. The storytelling was so riveting that he had to proceed with the project.


Hidden Gem

Beasts of No Nation is the definition of hidden gems on Netflix. It provides the viewer with a dynamic portal to empathize and, perhaps for a moment, feel the agony of a child torn by the political agendas. The journey of a boy turning into a merciless mercenary will allow you to feel the heartbreaks of Agu, and the nuance of Elba gives evil a new meaning. While the screenplay and direction have immersive brutality and gore glorified scenes which are not even a bit over the top and aptly represent the ruthlessness of a civil war.  

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In all of this, the brilliance lies in the way of storytelling, as the war changes people and children allocate knowledge of the world from their surroundings. When the world is burning, its smoke encapsulates the future in darkness. Witnessing everything from the perspective of a child, we understand that Eglantyne Jebb was correct in the 1800s, “Every war is a war against children”   


Beasts of No Nation is a 2015 war drama film written and directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga. It is streaming on Netflix.

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Shreshtha Shukla
"Thou art the suffering from which unwarranted melancholia emerges" Shreshtha Shukla is a writer, teacher, and a film enthusiast.

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