While Idris Elba has been receiving nominations (including a Golden Globe & SAG) for his role, it is Abraham Attah’s performance that makes the movie. He has a talent that most child actors, and many adult-aged actors lack, the ability to convey powerful emotion without uttering a single word. Though unlikely, I hope he secures an Oscar nom for his performance. Idris Elba is convincing as the manipulative and despicable Commandant, but his British accent breaks through on several occasions, pulling me out of several key scenes.
While this is a very good movie, it is not without faults. The last act feels drawn out, making it longer than necessary. The conclusion is particularly weak and withholds any catharsis from the character. A more glaring problem was the thick African accents. They made the English dialogue very hard to understand. It would have been more appropriate if all the characters spoke in their native language and then subtitles were added after the fact. The first fifteen minutes were mostly subtitled, as the rest of the film should have been.
2016 has not been the best year of movies. However, December is the month where the greatest films are usually released. “Beasts of No Nation” is a compelling and powerful film, and marks one of this year’s best. But I would not rank it as one of the best of all time.