16 October 2015 | themadmovieman
A harrowing but fascinating story, and one of the best war films of the century
This is quite simply one of the best war films of the 21st Century. Netflix's first outing on the big screen is a huge success thanks to an absolutely harrowing tale of conflict that makes for one of the most fascinating and thought-provoking movie experiences you've had in a long time.
The story follows this young boy, Agu, as he becomes deeper and deeper involved in the rebel army under the wing of the Commandant, played by Idris Elba. Both of these performances are simply excellent. Elba is often terrifying as the warmongering troop leader, and his unnerving performance is key to making this such an unsettling and disturbing film.
However, even Idris Elba is outshone by the stunning performance given by the young Abraham Attah, who plays Agu. Attah does a brilliant job at showing his character's transformation over the course of the story, from an innocent young boy to a hardened warrior in one of the most brutal wars on the planet.
This ties in perfectly, then, with the main theme of the film, which is all about the way that war destroys innocence entirely and replaces it with only doom and despair. In that, you can see that this is clearly an anti-war film, but it fortunately doesn't present itself so much as that, only giving you its powerful message if you concentrate hard enough and look for the details telling you about the destruction that war has brought to this place.
I say that because this film is, on the whole, not the most fast- paced, and if you watch it with your brain turned off, you'll likely be bored, because it's quite long, and hasn't got much action at all, it's the power and emotion of the underlying themes that provides the horrifying punch that makes this so compelling and upsetting.
Cary Joji Fukunaga's directing is also stunning. As well as making a simply beautiful film to look at, the way he directs every scene works brilliantly in tandem with whatever the film is trying to say. There are so many astonishing long shots of individuals' faces, particularly focused on Agu, and they just have such an incredible emotional power when you really look deep into their situation.
Abraham Attah's performance as a young boy who has clearly been through hell is of course integral to making that emotion clear, but the inventive and beautiful directing really aggrandises that feeling of total despair and loss of innocence, which is why this film is just such an incredible one to watch.