Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.5
USA, 2015. The Princess Grace Foundation, Red Crown Productions, Participant Media, Come What May Productions, Levantine Films, Mammoth Entertainment, New Balloon. Screenplay by Cary Joji Fukunaga, based on the novel by Uzodinma Iweala. Cinematography by Cary Joji Fukunaga. Produced by Idris Elba, Cary Joji Fukunaga, Amy Kaufman, Riva Marker, Daniel Taplin Lundberg. Music by Dan Romer. Production Design by Inbal Weinberg. Costume Design by Jenny Eagan. Film Editing by Pete Beaudreau, Mikkel E.G. Nielsen.
A civil war in an unnamed African country makes victims of members of a refugee camp when the place is invaded by government soldiers who accuse its residents of being members of the rebel army. This renders Agu alone in the world, losing his family in an execution that he manages to escape before taking to the wilderness. It is not long before he is snatched up by the rebels, brainwashed by their highly charismatic leader (a terrific ) into becoming a little soldier with a big gun.
The loss of innocence and tragedy that befalls those in the world who are denied education and financial stability are pompously put on display, simultaneously with gorgeous widescreen images of Africa’s natural (and conveniently distant) beauty. There are a few moments that hit hard, particularly when Agu, who is played brilliantly by Abraham Attah, is asked to cross lines of cruelty, but for the most part it is moral pandering that demands little challenge and reveals its personalities to be little more than symbols. Rebelle covered much of the same territory, just as shallow though with more atmosphere.
The Criterion Collection: #1091
Golden Globe Award Nomination: Best Supporting Actor (Idris Elba)
Screen Actors Guild Award: Best Supporting Actor (Idris Elba)
Nomination: Outstanding Motion Picture Cast
Toronto International Film Festival: 2015
Venice Film Festival Award: Marcello Mastroianni Award (Abraham Attah)