Idris Elba and Newcomer Abraham Attah Deliver Gripping Performances in Netflix’s ‘Beasts of No Nation’

There are many reasons to see Beasts of No Nation— a harrowing drama about boy soldiers drafted into a West African company of rebels—but it will be hard not to look away during some of its most savage scenes.

Based on the novel of the same name by Uzodinma Iweala, the Netflix film (available to stream and in select theaters October 16) stars an intense Idris Elba as the monstrous Commandant—a role that will make even him difficult to watch. But the heart of the movie—directed by Cary Fukunaga (who has come a long way from working as a production assistant on Destiny’s Child’s “Survivor” video)— is 13-year-old Abraham Attah as Agu.

Attah was chosen from more than 1,000 boys in Accra, Ghana. His debut performance is so compelling, you almost feel the world of pain in his eyes. When Agu is forced to inflict execution by machete—in one particularly graphic moment—Attah will cut you to the core.

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