Beasts of no Nation (2015)

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. 


Viewing Date
Wednesday, 28th October 2015 (San Francisco Marriott)


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Kelly’s Heroes (1970)

I honestly don’t know where to start with what is one of my all time favourites.  For me that means a movie I can watch many times and still get something out of it and not be bored.  The caper heist is always a wonderful genre to play with and gives a wonderful romantic view of the world of the master criminal.  Be it Pink Panther, or as far as Oceans Eleven, Kelly’s Heroes is another one that falls in perfectly where reality is suspended for a while in order not to get in the way of a great story.

Here we have a tired and worn our American platoon, after the D-Day landings in France.  They are at a loose end for a few days when they are told to relax and recuperate in a remote farm house with no booze or women!  

Telly Savalas plays Big Joe, the commander of the group who is a career army man who is there to get a job done.  

Clint Eastwood, plays Kelly, his second in command, who discovers a stray German officer who has some intelligence that may be useful to the Allie effort.

However, upon closer inspection, the German officer has 2 gold bars and after getting him drunk, Kelly discovers there is 14,000 bars sitting in a small town, 30 miles behind enemy lines relatively lightly guarded.  After a little bit of convincing, they decide to sneak behind the lines and take the gold for themselves.

But they need a little help.  Enter the excellent Oddball, played to perfection by 

Donald Sutherland.  Oddball is a tank commander of 3 Sherman tanks that have an unorthodox view of tank warfare, including shooting paint and playing loud music when they go into battle through the external speakers. 

Sutherland steals the show.  Think what Johnny Depp did for Captain Jack Sparrow and you have a hint of what Sutherland brings to the character and in turn the whole tone of the movie.  In his mannerisms, his dialogue and his interactions with his crew, there is no way this was scripted, this was Sutherland imagining this character Oddball.

The movie is not as light Oceans Eleven, as people die and war is well war.  People are being shot and killed in the pursuit of gold.  From that perspective you have to question the morality of this team.  In many respects you could liken them to the violet gang from De Niros Heat outing.  However, we the audience forgive them, because, after all, they are killing German soldiers.  So we get a pass to bypass this ethical issue.

Though while they are on a single mission, to get the gold, they do cause a bit of mayhem and as a side effect, break the fatigue on the front line and inspire the General to get moving towards Berlin.  As the tagline of the movie goes – they set out to rob a bank, and damn near won a war instead!

In addition to this, there is a great thumping soundtrack, with Mike Curb Congregation singing Burning Bridges.  A very 1960′s feel to it, even though the movie is set in the 1940′s.  It works though.

This is not your classic World War II movie by any stretch and is worthy of a watch on a Sunday afternoon when your weekend has come to an end and you want to go out with a smile.


Viewing Date
Saturday, 24th October 2015 (mid flight heading to SFO)


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Gallipoli (1981)

This movie is about the famous failed World War One military operation to attack Gallipoli as told from the prospective of the Australian army.   The movie started off life as a 2 part mini-series that was later edited into a feature length.

The first half of the movie is the back story of all the characters who find themselves signing up to the war effort.  It is by’n’large seen as a noble effort to go and fight for their country, even though the distance here is literally half way around the world.  Of course not everyone is so keen to go and be killed, with a very young Mel Gibson, Frank, as competitive runner who has plans to open his own bike shop and not get killed.

He falls in with Archy (Mark Lee), another competitive runner, who is the polar opposite in terms of his views to go and fight.  They become good friends and Mel helps him get to the next recruitment station that will turn a blind eye to the fact he isn’t 18 yet.

Archy gets his dreams and is accepted into the Light Brigade, after Frank failed due to not able to ride a horse.  They part ways and Frank attempts to go after his dream, but he’s broke.  He bumps into his old train worker mates who are all wanting to sign up and he eventually throws his luck in with them and they all go together.

The second half of the movie see’s the boys in Gallipoli and them coping with life on the front line.

The story does have a huge slant towards the Australian view of the war, making it look like the British were the bad guys here.  The director, 

Peter Weir, has since regretted this bias given it was an Australian officer that demanded the boys go over the top to their assured death.

Other than that huge historical blunder, there is a distinct made-for-TV feel about it, but doesn’t detract too much away from an excellent story.


Viewing Date
Friday, 2nd October 2015


IMDB YouTubeTrailer