I have never read the 2005 book Beasts of No Nation by Uzodinma Iweala on which Cary Fukunaga’s film, Beasts of No Nation is based. However, a while back I read another book about the lives of child soldiers entitled A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah. Ishmael Beah was himself a boy soldier in his youth. He describes that part of his life with an extreme honesty that impressed upon me the unspeakable yet not inhuman brutality and pain of that existence.
Cary Fukunaga’s film brought back many of those images I saw in my head when I read A Long Way Gone. While watching the movie I thought very much on A Long Way Gone. While watching the film I started to think it was based on A Long Way Gone as everything in the film seemed so similar to the book. Afterwards I read up on the film’s production and realized that it was based on a book by the same name. When I learned that the film was based on a book that is so obviously very similar in its explanation of that existence gave me a sudden chill. I mean, if the book even loosely follows the book then it means that book literary depictions of life as a boy soldier share the pains of family disintegration, forced drug use, brain washing, hunger, rape, indiscriminate killing, sociopathic leadership, exploitation and that dreaded psychological torment of trying to reenter society for those lucky enough to survive. If Ishmael Beah is to be believed then Beasts of No Nation is to believed as a very honest portrayal of life for these boys. Sad but true. A good narrative but sad. A sad narrative but true. It took a lot of gastrointestinal fortitude for me to get through the book and likewise was my get tested in watching this movie. However I am glad that I did. This type of narrative is important. It’s important for narratives to leave the audience with something they themselves will hopefully and likely never experience but still need to be aware of. It may hurt to accept it but it is necessary to know.
I have to give a strong shout out to the performances given by Abraham Attah and Idris Elba. The way Idris Elba played the Commander or Commondant, however they were saying his title, was masterful. Abraham Attah just kept a look in his eyes that gave off the impression of a soul in the worst of accepted torments and yet his was still able to give a convincing smile when the boys were playing.
Not to talk shit. But I also do have to be honest and say that although most of the movie was done well the movie’s ending was terrible. The movie started off smoothly with a nice progression, giving the viewer plenty of back story and reference and then stayed at 9,000 for a long while. Most of the movie was pretty high up there in terms of drama, suspense and action and then suddenly it went crash. Action, suspense and everything stopped. One of the best things about Ishmael Beah’s book, A Long Way Gone, is that it dealt with his induction back into what we call normal human interaction. Ishmael Beah was tormented and so conflicted by what he had done in that time. It took him so long just to actually reflect on it. He was afraid to and that honesty that goes through his bizarre yet totally relatable thoughts was probably the most powerful part of the book. So I wish they had taken some time to explore that.
In the end I have to say I think the movie is very worth seeing. It is a great 4/5 of a movie and a bit of a let down on the home stretch. Watch it. Think about it.