News

'Beasts Of No Nation' Makes Festival Rounds– Here's What Critics Are Saying

Critics are praising Idris Elba and newcomer Abraham Attah's performances in the film adaptation of Uzodinma Iweala's 'Beasts of No Nation.'


The highly-anticipated Beasts of No Nation adaptation, Netflix's first original film, premiered yesterday at the Venice Film Festival. Among the reviews starting to roll in, there seems to be a consensus among critics: the faint of heart need not apply.

Of course, if you're familiar with the 2005 Uzodinma Iweala novel on which the film was based, this probably comes as no surprise. The storyline centers on Agu (played by Ghanaian newcomer Abraham Attah), a child soldier descending to unspeakably hellish depths as a bloody guerilla war ravages his nameless West African homeland.

Yet, according to critics, director Cary Fukunaga's adaptation of the novel successfully brings the fictitious, yet true-to-life horrors to life. Perhaps, a bit too successfully for some Western moviegoers' tastes, some argue. As Justin Chang, Variety's Chief Film Critic, writes:

"By turns lucid and a bit logy, and undeniably overlong, it’s nevertheless the rare American movie to enter a distant land and emerge with a sense of lived-in human experience rather than a well-meaning Third World postcard. As such, its aesthetic integrity won’t make its grueling subject matter an easier sell to the mainstream."

The film's length and stamina also appears to be a point of contention, albeit a small one. Fionnuala Halligan, Chief Film Critic at Screen International, writes:

"Full of committed performances, particularly from Elba and the impressive young actor Abraham Attah, Beasts Of No Nation is a project of considerable integrity which makes for a consistently-engrossing, if over-long, viewing experience. It is grim, often harsh and occasionally trips over to nightmarish, Heart of Darkness territory. Like the central character of the Commandant, played so effectively by Elba, it also struggles to hold onto its power throughout."

As for the performances, Idris Elba's masterful execution of his nuanced supporting role as the villainous Commandant, along with Attah's overwhelmingly impressive approach to such mature material, have sparked a steadily growing awards season buzz. Telegraph chief film critic Robbie Collin writes about both actors:

"The film can get so emotionally and spiritually punishing that it needs Elba’s industrial magnetism to keep you on side. And vile as the Commandant may be, he’s a strong showcase for the actor’s talents: while we know he can do both brooding and bombastic in his sleep, it’s hard to think of another one of his roles, other than perhaps DCI John Luther, that blends those two moods together this successfully. Yet ultimately, this is Agu’s story, and it’s the prodigiously talented Attah who gives this pulverising war movie its soul, and offers in its later scenes the flickering prospect of redemption."

Guardian film critic Peter Bradshaw also gave kudos to Elba and Attah:

"This is a very powerful and confidently made movie, a film that really puts its audience through the wringer, which finally refuses any palliative gestures, with towering performances from Elba and Attah."

Meanwhile, film critic Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter praised Atttah's delivery in particular, writing:

"How a child actor could be coached to reveal and project the enormous range of reactions and emotions required for the role of Agu is practically unimaginable, but Attah is persuasive and true and constantly interesting to watch as a boy forced to endure extremes of experience to be wished on no one. The film would not have been worth making without a capable kid at its center, and the director found him."

'Beasts of No Nation' will be available on Netflix and in Landmark theaters in 19 markets on October 16.

Interview

Interview: Terri Is Stepping Out of the Shadows

We talk to the Wizkid-signed artist about the story behind the massive hit "Soco" and his latest Afro Series EP.

Certain afrobeats songs have made in-roads in international markets and paved the way for the genre's ceaselessly-rising widespread recognition. Among these history-defining songs were D'banj's "Oliver Twist," Tekno's "Pana," Davido's "If" & "Fall," Runtown's "Mad Over You," and of course, Wizkid's "Soco." Wizkid released "Soco" under his label imprint, Starboy Entertainment in March 2018, and the song spread like wildfire across Africa and beyond. "Soco" was an Afro-pop wonder delivered at a time when the 'afrobeats to the world' movement was gathering steam, further cementing its electric nature. The Northboi-produced song was co-signed by celebrities across the world like Rihanna, Cardi B, and Paul Pogba and has accrued well over a hundred million streams across streaming platforms worldwide.

"Soco" was not only a trailblazer amongst mid-2010s afrobeats records, it was also the introduction of the first Wizkid-signed artist, Terri. Just weeks before "Soco" was released, Terri was discovered by Wizkid's longtime producer, Mutay, who saw him covering the song "Oshe" on social media.

Before "Soco," Terri Akewe was well on his way to fame. At fifteen, he had performed at street carnivals in his neighbourhood and, one time, was carried all the way home by neighbours after winning a Coca-Cola sponsored singing competition. Before his life-changing meeting with Wizkid, Terri had a seven-track EP ready for release, as well as a viral song titled "Voices." "One time I was on set with the video director T.G Omori, he told me that 'Voices' was the first time he heard of me" Terri tells me as we settle on a plush couch at his home in Lagos.

Regardless of Terri's initial career trajectory; signing to a label headed by afrobeats' biggest superstar was bound to accelerate his musical journey, and at the same time, cast a huge shadow of expectation on his career, especially given a debut as spectacular as "Soco." With his latest EP, Afro Series, powered by the sensational single "Ojoro," one thing is clear: Terri is stepping out of the shadows into his own spotlight and he is doing it on his own terms.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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