Beasts of No Nation lives in the space between realism and allegory. Uzodinma Iweala’s original novel approaches that space but seems far less concerned with it, narrated entirely by the young central character, Agu, in his simplistic present-tense dialect. A child soldier in West Africa, Agu’s journey in the novel is one of survival. His family is killed, and to avoid being killed himself he accepts an offer to join the army of the Commandant, a rebel warlord. At first he declares “I am not wanting to fight”; eventually, though, Agu is killing with knives and guns, willfully attacking “enemies”, tearing through his war-stricken country at the whim and call of the Commandant.
Everything about the novel is heartbreaking, but nothing more so than the sense that Agu is too young to realize that his journey across his country is also a descent into hell. The first-person narration is one that nonetheless conveys the bare minimum about Agu’s own thoughts and feelings about his actions, and yet at times it conveys more than enough. “I am liking it” — this is what Agu says about the sound of his knife hitting a woman’s head, about the splashing blood. It’s brutal in how direct it all is, in its impossibility and in its plausibility. Iweala never has to name the West African country or convince us that someone like Agu really exists; Agu very definitely does.
Continue reading Beasts of No Nation (2015)
This review appeared shortly after the initial premiere of True Detective in early 2014 — slight edits have been made since the original posting.
Everything leading up to last night’s conclusion to True Detective’s first season has been pretty stellar, setting the bar higher for the show as a whole than any other first season you care to name. The finale was so sought-after, in fact, that the HBO GO server overloaded and crashed due to such high demand, sending millions into despair over whether Rust and Marty would finally get their man. Last week’s episode “After You’ve Gone” served up a nice volley for the finale to knock down — and the eighth and final installment did just that. Needless to say, spoilers follow for the season one finale “Form and Void”.
Writer and showrunner Nic Pizzolatto dug himself into a hole in several ways with True Detective, foremostly by turning out a phenomenal, pitch-perfect pilot and a five-episode arc that brought with it the most intriguing hour “The Secret Fate of All Life”. I didn’t hear any major complaints after the first three episodes, and only when the fourth episode “Who Goes There” indulged in an action sequence did reviewers post fears about the show becoming “just another procedural”. Now, it seems, we have something of the reverse: “Form and Void” was inarguably, inescapably, and at times frustratingly revelation-free, instead providing a straightforward “resolution” where most fans pined for a major twist involving the unveiling of the Yellow King.
Continue reading True Detective 1.8 – “Form and Void”