Saturday, 30 January 2016

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2015: Idris Elba in Beasts of No Nation

Idris Elba did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite being nominated for BAFTA, a Golden Globe, and winning SAG, for portraying the Commandant in Beasts of No Nation.

Beasts of No Nation has about a masterful hour, the second half being a bit problematic, as it brutally depicts the loss innocence through a young boy Agu (Abraham Attah), whose family is massacred, and he is made into a child soldier.

Idris Elba plays the leader of a loose group of soldiers who come across Agu. Elba, from what I have seen, had failed to really find his footing in terms of his cinematic output, delivering often forgettable work, though to be fair in rather thin parts. The commandant finally seems like a substantial role, and Elba seems to relish in the chance in his portrayal of the part. In the earliest scenes of the film Elba plays the part in a fairly grand fashion. Elba plays him less of a military commander and more that of a spiritual leader of sorts who marks his pardon upon Agu, acting it as though he is his savior. Elba is very good in these scenes bringing the needed charisma to the role that the Commandant can control his men without question at this point. He brings the right quality to his performance as he makes the Commandant seem something more than he is to Agu at first, as he makes himself to be the true leader of these men, that goes beyond even an idea of his rank. Elba creates a sense of benevolence in the Commandant as he treats Agu, and the other soldiers, with this essential warmth, as though he only wants what is best for them, despite the fact that he's actually just using young boys for his own ends.

A pivotal moment for Elba's performance comes when he forces Agu to murder a completely innocent man for him. Elba is terrific in the moment as he makes the persuasion believable for Agu, as he suggests to Agu that he is someway avenging his own family by doing this. Elba is chilling though in the moment though because he projects a disarming affection towards Agu, as he makes him do the ultimate act of hate. Elba continues to be very effective in being the father to all of his men in quieter moments, such as where he tells the men of the women in the next village he intends to conquer, as though he's telling them of a treasure they will obtain if they continue to follow them. My favorite moment his performance is a larger one as he primes his troops just before they enter into the fray of battle. Elba makes this moment as though the Commandant is firmly a man in his element, as he truly seems to becomes the men's spiritual guide as he leads them in a dance, as a for them to enter the battle. Elba properly rules the scene as he seems to become more than a man before his troops, as leads the men into the battle as though it is some sort of divine march, and he has become God.

Of course the commandant is not God, or a god, he's just a man, and not even much of a man. Elba does indicate this well even in the early scenes in the moments after the first attack, where the commandant finds some possessions to call his own. Elba makes him frankly a bit childish in the moment as though he's enjoying the power of his position a bit too much, he does not call it his own as a grand decree, but more of saying "Hey cool, that's mine". The cracks in the commandant's facade only grow deeper as the story proceeds, when the commandant indicates that he too must follow orders. Elba reveals just a bitter pathetic man who hates being reminded of his own position. This leads to an underdeveloped element in the film where it is heavily implied that that the commandant sexually molests Agu. The moment just seems to be there to be another horrible thing Agu is forced to do, but the way its done it feels like it's there to be a checklist without really having much purpose other than having the commandant being even worse than he already was. The commandant's fall only continues when he meets with his superior, and is treated with very little respect. Again Elba does well enough in showing just the angry thug beneath it all, as he lashes out for being treated as something unimportant.

The film continues along the path of the commandant's own self-destruction, and any sway he might have had over his men only evaporates as time goes on. This is as the commandant does anything to stay in power, including having his second in command killed, and then proceeding to basically have his men keep fighting even though they're no longer part of any army. The film does not really allow Elba to gradually depict this descent in the commandant as the film moves aimlessly for awhile, though not in a way reflective of the aimless way the commandant is using his men. Elba does not have much screen time after the commandant goes renegade as we just eventually find his final scene where the men finally rebel against him. To his credit Elba is good in the scene as he portrays with such exasperation the commandant's final attempt to keep control, but really has not charisma left as he still tries to command them to do his bidding. This even is handled rather swiftly as the commandant barely gets a final glimpse before the film cuts away, and we never see him again. One could take this to show how far he's fallen, as the man who was the center of all these men's lives is just tossed away with only a few words. The problem is it just does not build to this in a particularly engaging way, and once again Elba seems often underused. This is still a very good performance, a great one in the earliest scenes, but as the commandant loses power so does Elba's performance. Now one could argue that as intentional, but the portrait of a man losing that power isn't made especially compelling by the film or Elba. I don't want to sound too negative though, since like the film, Elba's work is tremendous in the beginning, but like the film loses that strength as it continues.

77 comments:

Anonymous said...

Louis: Fonda was perfect for Frank in Once Upon A Time in The West, but I find the idea of Wayne playing Frank very interesting. Do you think he would have been interesting as a villain?

Anonymous said...

*also find

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Are you still saving Attah, if not, can I have your rating and thoughts on him.

Anonymous said...

I have to say I'm shocked he didn't get a 4,5, but I'm hoping Attah will get a 5.

Anonymous said...

*he got a 4,5

Louis Morgan said...

Anonymous:

Certainly as there are shades of a Frank in his Ethan in The Searchers, so I think he could have pulled off the role.

Luke:

Saving him still.

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Thank goodness. :)

Calvin Law said...

I kind of agree with you in that the character did grow less interesting as the film progressed, nevertheless I would still give him a 5, personally.

Also having re-watched The Revenant this afternoon, I think I've finally come round to your thoughts on DiCaprio. I do think he gives nuances to a great deal of Glass' suffering and grew to appreciate his quieter scenes all the more. He's my 6th overall for the year now (though not all that close to my #5, Jordan).

Luke Higham said...

Anonymous: I'm not too shocked about this review and rating, though I'll be gutted if Attah doesn't get a 5.

Calvin Law said...

Luke: I think Attah still has a chance at the 5, since unike Elba's character, the fact that Agu is a reactionary performance throughout means that his characterisation isn't really hindered by this direction the film takes.

Anonymous said...

Louis: I've read that Kubrick offered Grant the main role of Lolita.

Anonymous said...

Luke: Well, I was expecting him to get a 5, but at least I'm glad Louis liked his performance.

Luke Higham said...

Anonymous: Agreed. :)

Michael Patison said...

I agree he's perfect at the beginning, but that he declines in the second half. I'd give him a 5, though, because I feel like he did everything he could and even elevated the limitations of the material he was given and disagree that he failed to make his loss of power compelling.

Anonymous said...

I reckon Tom Hardy will win the overall, it just makes sense that he wins, he had the best year of any actor and this is his big reward since he has never won on this blog yet.

mcofra7 said...

I would be happy with either Hardy or Del Toro winning overall.

Luke Higham said...

I'd love it so much if Hardy won Supporting and Fassbender winning in Lead. :)
I'm still gonna be happy with anyone else winning either overall, but they are my two favourite actors currently working and both are my personal overall wins for 2015.

Robert MacFarlane said...

Still hoping for a Bateman upset.

Luke Higham said...

Robert: I'm hoping that he gets a 5 at the very least and will be pleased if he won. :)

Anonymous said...

2015 has been such a great year for movies. I hope 2016 can be just as great.

Robert MacFarlane said...

WELL NOW

Louis Morgan said...

So glad it was not Bale. I hope Rylance wins for Wolf Hall though.

Luke Higham said...

Louis: I fucking hope so. If he doesn't win the TV BAFTA, I'll just give up.

Stallone's the clear favourite and Hardy's the potential spoiler.

Louis Morgan said...

Luke:

This helps Stallone the most I would say since no one can really build steam against him now.

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Oh, he's definitely winning, but I would say Hardy's second favourite.

Louis Morgan said...

Luke:

Well that helped everyone except Rylance and Bale, which means we can't forget about *shudders* Mark Ruffalo.

Louis Morgan said...

Alright guys, now you're taking this Idris Elba thing too far.

Luke Higham said...

FFS. :(

Louis Morgan said...

Anonymous:

I don't think anyone could have pulled off Humbert as well as Mason did.

Robert MacFarlane said...

They are sending one clear message tonight. And I am batting 100 in my predictions.

Louis Morgan said...

Robert:

I kind of would love it if Beasts took ensemble.

Luke Higham said...

If The Big Short beats Spotlight for Ensemble, I'm gonna be extremely worried.

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Same here, though it wouldn't take away any concerns I have for the best picture race.

Anonymous said...

Spotlight is going to win Best Ensemble without a doubt.

Calvin Law said...

Beasts' ensemble is actually quite underrated. It's clearly the Elba and Attah show yet every other smaller character makes his/her mark quite well too.

Hopefully Spotlight wins.

Louis Morgan said...

Calvin:

Well Spotlight has Ruffalo, Beasts has no equivalent.

Anonymous said...

I hope Redmayne doesn't win the SAG.

Robert MacFarlane said...

There's something cruelly ironic that The Big Short, the whitest and dudebroiest of the nominees might win Ensmble.

Calvin Law said...

Louis: Who would you have liked to see in Ruffalo's role or do you think, with a less mannered approach, he'd have done a better job?

Robert MacFarlane said...

Ruffalo could have been great had he decided to not imitate the real man, or perhaps dial back the tics to a more restrained level.

Calvin Law said...

Also, just for fun (thought of these today)

Female 'The Revenant'
Glass: Charlize Theron
Fitzgerald: Jennifer Jason Leigh
Bridger: Hailee Steinfeld
Henry: Elizabeth Debicki

Calvin Law said...

Robert: Agreed, though I don't seem to view the performance as negatively as most seem to have on here (I don't think he's good either, just not terrible).

Calvin Law said...

Also, to be fair, Elba is really, really good on Luther so I don't have that much of an issue with him winning (although would've been nice to see Rylance win).

Luke Higham said...

Calvin: I'm fine with Elba winning, but I'm getting annoyed with Rylance going empty-handed again.

Louis Morgan said...

Calvin:

I was just making a joke in regards to Elba's second win, as I have not seen Luther. I would like to see Rylance win something eventually though.

I think Ruffalo could have been better if, as Robert said, he dialed it down a bit.

Though he's technically a bit tall I think Benicio Del Toro could have worked well in that role.

Calvin Law said...

That's exactly who I was just thinking about, Louis. He even looks like Rezendes quite a bit and would've probably (based on his work this year) given a pretty subdued and subtle performance. My only problem with that casting would've been that Del Toro is just a bit too imposing generally. Which might've been interesting to watch in that scene where he tells Robbie 'It's time!', scaring the whole Spotlight crew shitless.

Calvin Law said...

Also, looking on the nominees again your right, Elba beat Rylance in both categories which he should probably have won for.

Oh well, no use getting too fussed about that. Would it help?

Luke Higham said...

Calvin: I never get too worked up about this kind of thing anyway, it was just a minor outburst. :)

Louis Morgan said...

Well that might be true in regards to Del Toro "It's time Robby" in a bone chilling voice, but it certainly would have made an impact. I suppose it would also be a bit harder to believe that the guy at the clerks office could give him any guff. "Let me use your copier" he wouldn't have had to bribe him. Seriously though I think Del Toro, probably could have made himself a bit meeker for the role.

In regards to Rylance one can instantly feel better about it by watching him at an interview about the Golden Globes. When he says he'd rather not win, he seems so genuinely humble that you absolutely believe him.

Michael McCarthy said...

If you guys really wanna see Rylance win stuff, you should start watching the Tony's he wins those all the time.

Robert MacFarlane said...

It's looking like we have the acting categories sewn up.

Luke Higham said...

Please let it be Spotlight.
Please let it be Spotlight.
Please let it be Spotlight.
Please let it be Spotlight.
Please let it be Spotlight.
Please let it be Spotlight.

Louis Morgan said...

Thank goodness, Luke might have had a heart attack otherwise.

Luke Higham said...

YESSSSSSSSSSS! :)

Calvin Law said...

Hahaha Louis :). Imagine Spotlight and Sicario switching Ruffalo and Del Toro. The interrogation scene with Ruffalo hunched over, chewing gum,just doing Rezendes things.

Also yes, Rylance is a delight to watch in interviews.

Louis Morgan said...

Calvin:

Actually you made me imagine a whole new final act for Spotlight. "I said its time Robby" Del Toro Mike loads hand gun, walks off to bring some law and order to Cardinal Law. Robby concerned goes to the lower depths of the offices dons secret Batsuit to stop Mike.

Robert MacFarlane said...

Whew, thought I would have a brain aneurysm.

Louis Morgan said...

Come on DGA you're even more of the chosen one now.

Anonymous said...

Louis: What are your thoughts and rating on Veronica Lake in The Blue Dahlia?

Calvin Law said...

Completely pointless, but just because I'm bored I'll do some (completely unfounded) predictions for next year's Oscars:

Best Picture
Silence
Hail, Caesar!
Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk
Passengers
Birth of a Nation
Hacksaw Ridge
Sully
The BFG

Best Director
Martin Scorcese, Silence
The Coen Brothers, Hail, Caesar
Morten Tyldum, Passengers
Ang Lee, Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk
Steven Speilberg, The BFG

Best Actor
Tom Hanks, Sully
Andrew Garfield, Hacksaw Ridge/Silence
Michael Keaton, The Founder
Woody Harrelson, LBJ
Bruce Willis, Labor of Love
(Nate Parker, The Birth of a Nation, Michael Shannon, Midnight Special, Jake Gyllenhaal, Nocturnal Animals)

Best Actress
Jessica Chastain, The Zookeeper's Wife
Emily Blunt, The Girl on the Train
Meryl Streep, Florence Foster Jenkins
Emma Thompson, Alone in Berlin
Saoirse Ronan, The Seagull

Best Supporting Actor
Liam Neeson, Silence
Jude Law, Genius
George Clooney, Hail, Caesar!
Brendan Gleeson, Alone in Berlin
Richard Jenkins, LBJ

Best Supporting Actress
Jennifer Jason Leigh, LBJ
Laura Dern, The Founder
Nicole Kidman, Genius
Kristen Stewart for Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk
Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Free State of Jones

Luke Higham said...

Calvin: I predict Alicia Vikander, getting a nomination for The Light Between Oceans and she's most likely Lead.

Luke Higham said...

Calvin: I doubt this year will be as good as last year. :(

Calvin Law said...

Agreed. :/

Silence will hopefully be a masterpiece, I think Hail, Caesar, Hacksaw Ridge, Passengers and The BFG all have potential to be great, intrigued by Nocturnal Animals, looking forward to Deadpool and all the other superhero blockbusters. We'll see.

Luke Higham said...

Calvin: The only superhero films, I'm really looking forward to are Deadpool and X-Men: Apocalypse. After it's most recent trailer, I'm willing to give Suicide Squad a chance. I'm not anticipating Captain America: Civil War as much as Louis, as I'm really feeling franchise fatigue with the MCU and Eisenberg, Irons and Affleck's depiction of Bruce Wayne/Batman are the only things I care about in Regards to BVS.

Anonymous said...

Luke: I can accept different versions of something, but I have to say that Leto's Joker design isn't resonating well with me.

Robert MacFarlane said...

I'm curious about A Monster Calls. Could be a nice tearjerker of they do it right.

Luke Higham said...

Anonymous: I'm quite mixed on it, but for now, I'll give him the benefit of the doubt.

Calvin Law said...

I just watched the trailer for that, have to say I do quite like the look of it...though the use of the Cloud Atlas soundtrack was kind of distracting (but guessing that's just the trailer).

Anonymous said...

Let's hope that Clooney is great in Hail, Caesar!

Anonymous said...

Calvin: I can see Birth of A Nation winning Best Picture.

Michael McCarthy said...

Calvin: I think there are going to be more POC performances than that nominated, the AMPAS is really gonna want to cover their asses this year. I'm thinking maybe Don Cheadle for Miles Ahead of that gets a wide enough release.

Calvin Law said...

Michael: Ah, yeah, completely forgot about Miles Ahead. Keep thingking that was a 2015 release that slipped under my eyes. Cheadle could well be a contender and hopefully he gives a good enough performance.

Robert MacFarlane said...

Birth of a Nation will win Best Picture, but only Armie Hammer will be nominated.

Calvin Law said...

Also Casey Affleck has been getting rave reviews for Manchester by the Sea.

Luke Higham said...

And Jane Got A Gun's terrible.

Louis Morgan said...

Anonymous:

(Lake is usually good, and this is the case here, but her role is particularly thin here. She offers plenty of charm for it, and makes the most of not a lot)

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Is the review coming later today and have you watched any 2015 films recently.