NAGA on Netflix is a new thriller from Saudi Arabia. It’s a wild trip of a movie-watching experience. Also, it offers a look into a world not many of us know firsthand. Do check it out. Read our full NAGA movie review here!
NAGA is a new Netflix thriller from Saudi Arabia. The movie had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, which should tell you that it definitely has international appeal. In essence, it’s a survival story, but it’s also a lot more.
Mostly, it’s a look at what life in Saudi Arabia could look like for a young woman. One that is quite rebellious when she can get away with it – and far from the only one. Also, it’s a trippy experience, which is both due to drugs taken in the storyline and the wild camera angles and movements.
Continue reading our NAGA movie review below. Find it on Netflix from December 7, 2023.
Not for everyone, but quite amazing
I want to be upfront about the fact that this might not be for everyone. But actually, this goes for many genre films. It’s a crazy ride and I definitely think you should give it a chance, but you also have to surrender to it.
For example, this movie includes a crazy camel attack which we certainly haven’t experienced before!
There are some chronological twists along the way, but that’s easy to keep up with. It’s mostly just a “This is where we are now, but let’s see what led to this”-chronology.
Specifically, we meet Sarah who’s stranded in the desert dunes of Riyadh. She’s a local Saudi girl with a very strict father and a strong rebellious streak of her own. We see how she ended up in the desert, but also what happens afterward. Hence the chronological jumps in the story.
Sarah goes through a lot as she battles the vengeance of a vigorous camel and a date with her secret boyfriend that doesn’t go as planned. All of this after having told her parents that she’s out with a female friend. Her father will pick her up where he drove her earlier at 9:59 PM. Exactly!
Now her very future depends on her being able to make it out of the desert dunes and back to central Riyadh in time for her 9:59 PM pick-up. Adwa Bader portrays Sarah and she is mesmerizing. Sarah is stubborn and strong but caught in a world where she should be neither. This is what Adwa Bader portrays perfectly!
The first Saudi film at TIFF Midnight Madness
As mentioned already, NAGA had its world premiere at TIFF [Toronto International Film Festival]. However, the reason why we’re writing about this movie is that it is very much a genre film. In fact, it was the first Saudi film ever selected for Toronto’s Midnight Madness program.
This is a program with a rich history of showcasing some of the best (often up-and-coming) genre filmmakers. Horror in particular, so it’s definitely a seal of approval to be selected for Midnight Madness at TIFF.
OTHER MOVIES FROM 2023 MIDNIGHT MADNESS
Previously, these are movie that had their world (or North American) premiere there: Ichi the Killer (Takashi Miike, 2001), Cabin Fever (Eli Roth, 2002), Haute Tension (Alexandre Aja, 2003), The Host (Bong Joon Ho, 2006), Daybreakers (Spierig brødrene, 2009), Jennifer’s Body (Karyn Kusama, 2009) og You’re Next (Adam Wingard, 2011).
You should also know that even though this movie is a trip, there is nothing supernatural about it. The story is about a girl – or young woman, really – who takes a chance on a tiny taste of freedom and things get way out of hand.
Watch NAGA on Netflix now!
The writer and director of NAGA is Meshal Aljaser, who offers a rare glimpse at several parts of Saudi Arabia. We see the traditional side and the more rebellious. Also, we get a chance to experience that there are a lot of gray areas in a country that deals mostly in black or white. Or, you know, right and wrong.
It’s easy to see why TIFF wanted to feature this movie by having the world premiere and having it in their Midnight Madness program. In fact, even the star of NAGA, Adwa Bader, was selected as one of TIFF 2023’s Rising Stars.
The camera work alone is breathtaking. Actually, it can also be a bit nauseating because the twists and turns are wild at times. Ibraheem Alshangeeti is the brilliant cinematographer on this.
Clearly, a movie like NAGA won’t be for everyone with its trippy style. Just don’t let the fact that it isn’t in English keep you from watching it. This movie isn’t even very dialogue-heavy, so you should give it a shot.
NAGA is on Netflix from December 7, 2023.
Director: Meshal Aljaser
Cast: Adwa Bader, Khalid Bin Shaddad, Amal Alharbi, Yazeed Almajyul
While discreetly sneaking out for a date, Sarah becomes stranded amidst Riyadh’s desert dunes. She finds herself escaping the vengeance of a rabid camel after accidentally causing harm to its newborn.