Follows the journey of a young boy, Agu, who is forced to join a group of soldiers in a fictional West African country. While Agu fears his commander and many of the men around him, his fledgling childhood has been brutally shattered by the war raging through his country, and he is at first torn between conflicting revulsion and fascination Depicts the mechanics of war and does not shy away from explicit, visceral detail, and paints a complex, difficult picture of Agu as a child soldier.Written by
First non-documentary feature film distributed primarily by a streaming service (Netflix) to be nominated for major film awards. Idris Elba received Best Supporting Actor nominations at the Golden Globes, BAFTAs and Screen Actors Guild Awards. Abraham Attah also received a Critics Choice nomination for his performance. However, due to the Academy's years long bias at the time against the non-theatrical distribution model of Netflix and other streaming platforms, the film received no Oscar nominations. It wasn't until Mudbound (2017) that a non-documentary streaming film (also Netflix) received nominations in major categories (or in any category for that matter) at the Academy Awards. See more »
When Agu is first captured by the NDF and made to carry a crate of ammunition, it is a crate of 5.56x45mm rounds (according to the markings on the crate). Curiously, neither side in the civil war uses weapons that chamber this round; the NDF forces all carry Kalashnikov variants chambered in 7.62x39mm while the NRC soldiers favor HK G3 variants chambered in 7.62x51mm. See more »
It is starting like this.
[watching other children playing]
Let's keep looking. They aren't good enough.
Hey, let's take that girl.
That girl. Zoey. Let's take her.
Ah... No. What about that one?
[...] See more »
Greetings again from the darkness. Cary Joji Fukunaga has quickly established himself as an expert storyteller with his previous writing and directing of SIN NOMBRE (2009), JANE EYRE (2011) and the fascinating and conversation-sparking first season of "True Detective" (he did not direct the much-maligned Season Two). He goes even deeper and darker this time by adapting Uzodinma Iweala's novel about a child soldier.
When first we meet Agu, he is but an enterprising and fun-loving kid who thrives on mischief such as trying to sell "Imagination TV" – the empty shell of a console TV, complete with Agu and his buddies acting out scenes for those who peer through the picture tube opening. Agu describes himself as "a good boy from a good family", and we believe him.
Somewhere in Africa is all we know about the location, and soon enough Agu's village is under siege and he is separated from his mother, and forced to stay behind with the men – including his father and big brother. More terror forces Agu alone into the forest until he is brought into a mostly young group of rebel forces led by the Commandant (Idris Elba). It's around this time that Agu begins "talking" to God through voice over narration that allows viewers to understand what's going on inside Agu's head – often quite contrary to what is happening on the outside as he transforms from mischievous kid to dead-eyed child soldier. When Agu stops speaking to God, we understand that he believes he no longer deserves to be heard, but his words to the universe (directed to his mother) let us know, this boy has not yet lost his soul.
Though we never understand the war, or even who is fighting whom, this uncertainty is designed to help us better relate to Agu. He may be a tough-minded soldier, but we also never forget that he is mostly a little boy hoping to re-connect with his mother. Idris Elba plays the Commandant as part father-figure, part war lord, and part cult leader. He is a menacing presence one moment and a soothing voice of reason the next. When we (and Agu) learn the full story of his multiple sides, we are both sickened and disheartened. It's the performances of both Elba and newcomer Abraham Attah (as Agu) that make this such a devastating and fascinating movie to watch, and it's the filmmaking of Fukunaga that keeps our eyes glued to the screen when we would just as soon turn away.
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