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'Beasts of No Nation' turns up the temperature too far on atrocities

'Nation' stars Abraham Attah as a preteen boy who becomes a soldier in a rebel faction of an unnamed African country. The faction is led by Commandant (Idris Elba).

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'Beasts of No Nation' stars Idris Elba (l.) and Abraham Attah (r.).

Shawn Greene/Netflix/AP

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Based on the acclaimed novel by Nigerian-American author Uzodinma Iweala, “Beasts of No Nation,” the first theatrical release from Netflix, is an appropriately grueling movie about a preteen boy, Agu (Abraham Attah), who becomes a soldier in a rebel faction of an unnamed African country after his family is killed in a military junta. The faction is led by Commandant (a very scary Idris Elba), who trains the boys in his army to commit unspeakable acts of warfare and revenge. (He also commits unspeakable acts upon them.)

Writer-director Cary Joji Fukunaga turns up the temperature on these atrocities – too much so, I think. Attah is an industrious little actor, but his fall from innocence is not delineated with the same force as the carnage. The film in the end seems more of an expertly orchestrated blood bath than a full-scale tragedy. Grade: B- (Unrated.)

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