To call a film the "most" harrowing is not the "most" useful response, nor is it possible for someone who has never been a combatant in an active violent conflict to evaluate the "realism" of a war film. That said, watching BEASTS OF NO NATION felt like one of the more distressing experiences I've had in a cinema; and its portrayal of war as a subject too grave for mere entertainment makes it a more humane and noble use of the medium than previous war films. Cary Joji Fukanaga graduated from the bleak melodrama of TRUE DETECTIVE to adapting Uzodinma Ideal's novel, itself based on doctoral research, into the experience of child soldiers (his lead actors, Idris Elba and the teenage Abraham Attah respectively possess the roles of some of the most complicated cruelty mingled with human brokenness, and one of the most wounded and innocent characters the movies have given us). BEASTS OF NO NATION is something like the distressed son of APOCALYPSE NOW and THE RED BALLOON, beginning with a smart joke about how most people's vision of African conflict is mediated by television (here explicitly identified as a broken medium, incapable of telling the truth about complex reality). This film is remarkable not only for being truly anti-war, but a story about Africa that avoids either sensationalizing or patronizing its subjects, and repudiates the racist history of the "white savior" narrative. It's a painful watch, and the source of its funding makes it the more notable. It's in theaters this weekend, and in every home that has a Netflix account on the same day; something so serious, so humane, and so important has rarely been accessible to such a wide audience. I recommend it both for theater and home viewing - one will be the kind of shock to the system that only cinema can bring, and the other may grant more space for asking what makes a better world.