Credit: <i>Beasts of No Nation</i>

Set in a war-torn African country, this stark drama follows a young boy who’s separated from his family and forced to fight for a rebel army. Director-cinematographer Cary Fukunaga (Sin Nombre, HBO’s True Detective) alternates between documentary-style realism and passages of extreme stylization, and his multifaceted approach conveys the instability of the hero’s existence (his use of color and wide-screen framing yields moments of unexpected beauty amid the constant violence). Idris Elba gives an intense performance as the boy’s commanding officer and eventual father figure; his character comes across as monstrous at first but seems increasingly vulnerable as the story develops. The source material was a novel by Uzodinma Iweala.