I always knew coming to this movie was readily admitting you were willingly stepping into an emotional roller-coaster that was going to throw you around and have you screaming to get out, but you have to stay to the end. Netflix’s production of Idris Elba’s story of child soldiers in Africa did not disappoint.
The African country is not named, but pick any of the current warring nations at the moment and suddenly it becomes very real. We are taken on the journey through the eyes of a young boy Agu, who is in and around 10 years of age. We see his normal childhood, interacting with his brother, father, mother, his friends and the other people in his poor (by Western standards) village. Agu is just a boy, doing what normal boys of his age do. Annoying his brother, playing with the local children, attempting to find things to do and explore their surroundings.
Then political upheaval and the security of the village is under threat when an army come in to invade. The movie is clever in not clearing defining who is the good guys or the bad guys. It allows the real confusion of what is going in the country to continue to play out and take the viewer along with it. Agu has no more knowledge on who is right or wrong than you or I.
The Father decides to pack up his family and send them to the city for safety. However there is such a mass exodus that he can only persuade one shady taxi driver to take the mother and their young baby, leaving Agu with the elders of the family. This scene in of itself was absolutely heart breaking and one can only imagine the pain having your family ripped apart like that, with no mobile phones, or addresses to even think about keeping in touch. Horrendous.
But the journey has only started. Agu witnesses his family being gunned down and basically runs for his life deep into the forest. He wanders for days, trying to find food and keep himself alive. Again, heart breaking to watch and you keep wondering, if you have a son of that age like I, how they would have coped in the same situation.
After a few days he falls in the small platoon of child soldiers run by Elba. This is when the uncomfort value really kicks up. If you were already sobbing at this point, then do yourself a favor, go and get another box of tissues, and be prepared to maybe need another box before its over.
I won’t begin to articulate the rest of this tale, because I do not believe any words would do the story telling any justice. While you are watching this, you are reminded that this is based on a true story, and this is happening now with children picking up guns and pointing them at an enemy they have no clue about.
Idris Elba is deserving of an Oscar nod here for his outstanding role here. The movie itself should be nominated, and I only hope the Academy don’t get snobby and snub the online streaming genre as not worthy of their attention. The movie did get a simultaneous release online and in the cinema. Though, the top four distributors refused to show it because of the online component going on at the same time.
Definitely watch this movie. Make time for it and give it your full attention. You won’t be disappointed.
Wednesday, 28th October 2015 (San Francisco Marriott)