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. Golden Globe Awards 2015. Independent Spirit Awards 2015. National Board of Review Awards 2015. Toronto International Film Festival 2015. Washington Film Critics Award 2015.
A civil war in an unnamed African country makes victims of a refugee camp when it 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 Idris Elba) 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.