By David Michael Newstead.
Beasts of No Nation chronicles a young boy’s transformation into a child soldier. Although it takes place in an unnamed African country, the film is clearly meant to be reminiscent of the civil wars in Liberia and Sierra Leone – conflicts that were famous for rebel factions, brutal violence, and the exploitation of young people by warlords like Charles Taylor. The main character, Agu, is forced into an army of child soldiers after the death of his family. And as the movie progresses, the group’s leader is shown to be a perverse figure father who provides a sense of belonging and discipline, while also ordering the boys to commit numerous atrocities. For Agu, we’re left to wonder if he can ever regain his humanity. For the audience, we’re left to reflect on the lasting traumas of war.