I’m not going to lie. This was a very difficult film to watch. It’s a horrific subject matter that I’m sure no one wants to know anything about intellectually let alone watch a movie on. Child Soldiers are a crime against humanity, there is no other way to put it. It’s a horror that needs to be stopped.
This is not a documentary. It’s a film based on a story that, while fictional, happens in the real world. This was a brutal film to watch, despite the fictional origin. There was one spot that I had to skip over and another that I wish I had, as the brutality is seared into my mind. The whole film lingers in my mind. It’s about a boy named Agu (played by Abraham Attah) whose family is first separated and then his father and brother are killed by government forces. He escapes into the bush and is found by Commandant (played by Idris Elba), who “rescues” Agu from certain death by taking him into the battalion as a new recruit.
Idris and Abraham both do outstanding work in this film. I can’t even imagine how they prepared for their roles. I also can’t imagine what it took to live in these roles, to produce such amazing performances. Another young actor who deserves a particular shout out is Emmanuel Nii Adom Quaye, who plays Strika, Agu’s eventual friend in the battalion. Really, everyone involved in the film did an incredible job. Something to keep in mind? Idris had the supporting role. This was Abraham’s film and I can’t wait to see what he does next.
Obviously, this is a film that should only be watched by those who can handle real violence. I say ‘real’ because it doesn’t depict the typical “explosions/fights/deaths” of Hollywood. I’m torn about the age cut-off on this one. If you have a very mature 16 year old, I would say it’s okay, but be prepared for the fallout and please discuss it with them after viewing. Better yet, watch it with them so you can turn it off if it gets to be too much. I would err on the side of 18 years old, to be honest. And if you’re an adult who has any kind of emotional trigger about violence, drug use, abuse, or rape, then this is a film you should skip.
One comment on the whole Oscars thing. I do believe that Idris should have been nominated for Best Supporting Actor for this film. I also believe, hands down, that Abraham should have been nominated for Best Actor. I don’t know if the snub was due to racism or that no one wanted to watch it because of the content and therefore couldn’t nominate either of them. Either or both scenarios are equally as likely, I’m very sad to say.