One boy, lost without hope. Beats of No Nation represents a war that has no escape but forces the innocent to join together and fight back for the family and friends they watched die.
Agu survived the take-over of his town, he watched his mother and young siblings drive away to safety and then faced the enemy’s spiteful acts of killing the rest of his family. He ran away, far enough to not be found but was caught by the NDF who adopted him into their ranks. The NDF give a powerful message: where there is war, there can be victory. Where there is war, soldiers must be strong. Where there is war, there is revenge.
At this point in the film, it is quite easy to feel sorry for Agu. He’s just a little boy who wanted to be with his family but one day the worst happened. There is some relief as Agu is no longer alone but a war is bigger than any army.
The Commandant, played by Idris Elba, soon trains Agu to be a better soldier, a soldier who can protect him and has the strength to defeat those that beg for mercy. It’s heartbreaking to see such a young child turn into someone they never wanted to be. Agu is a victim of war, he had no choice but to fight back because it was either that or die.
The Commandant is not the man you’d first think him to be, he exudes confidence and leadership and his apparent emotional protection for his country makes him seem the man who can win. Agu is a rape victim of this man, he becomes like other soldiers and smokes and takes drugs to try and keep sane. The night he was taken advantage of does not seem to be an event that could be forgotten. Nor could any of the events in the film, for that matter.
Agu meets a friend in the NDF who was also a victim of the Commandant’s acts and they stick together like brothers. This emphasises that even though there is war, everyone needed someone to stand by, to make the battles feel less lonely, to feel protected and trusted. This glimmer of hope did not last long.
It becomes clear that the Commandant starts to lose control of the group and can no longer be the one to lead. The Supreme Commander did not promote him as was expected and so the Commandant goes to celebrate his new downgraded promotion at a brothel. However, somebody shoots the lieutenant, who was going to lead the battalion, and then the Commandant leaves the city with his men.
They spend a few months at a gold mine, hoping to find gold to pay for more supplies. People are hungry, dehydrated, dying and disintegrating. They stood up for who they are, for who they want to be and where they want to go. Everyone, apart from the Commandant, surrenders to UN troops and Agu ends up in missionary school with the other young soldiers, but not his friend Striker.
Agu is just a little boy and the nightmares that were real life, became a constant reminder. Using a young boy as the main character in the film certainly makes it more emotive, it shows how serious a war can be and that it does not only effect adults. Agu was confronted with blood, death, starvation, rape and isolation. How can one boy go through so much heartache?
Should you watch this film?
YES. Although it is sad to watch, it has gripping elements that make you feel like you are on Agu’s journey with him. It will open your eyes to the world of people who are suffering.