A new survival thriller from Icelandic director Baltasar Kormákur is making the rounds through theaters this month in Beast, starring Idris Elba as Nate Samuels, a doctor reconnecting with his young daughters (Leah Jeffries, Iyana Halley) and his culture in South Africa after they tragically lost their mother. They visit Martin (Sharlto Copely), an old friend of Nate’s, on his preserve in South Africa where he works with big cats and studies a pride himself. In an effort to help quell his family’s grief, they plan on visiting the village of their late mother. As they explore, the trip devolves into a fight for their lives when a rogue lion zeroes in on the family, confusing them for poachers who had killed its pride.
Beast is an extremely tight and direct gripping thriller, packing quite a few heart-pounding moments into a brisk runtime. Idris Elba gives a strong and emotional performance, selling his role as a guilt-ridden and confused father trying to process his own grief while helping his daughters with their own. Shot on-site in South Africa, the culture and the beauty of the Savanna shine through as our characters explore both memories of their mother and the current preserve and villages. The CGI of the lions works very well, looking strong and powerful as they traipse through the landscape. Sharlto Copely also delivers an understated and grounded performance as Martin, who is navigating his friendship and a myriad of dysfunctional relationships between his guests.
I’m very impressed by the tension this movie continually builds throughout, partly due to absolutely claustrophobic cinematography by Philippe Rousselot, trapping the viewer inside the jeep with the characters and making them feel every piece of the imminent danger and close proximity of the beast hunting them. The long skulking shots winding through the grass of the Savanna mimicked the beast itself and made the audience feel like they were peering through predatory eyes. While not necessarily unsurprising, the movie’s twists and turns kept the viewer engaged and interested in what was coming next.
Our character’s decision-making in Beast leaves room for improvement
I do feel like this film was bogged down by the decisions of the characters being remarkably inadequate at every juncture. Arguing in times of collaboration, not checking their surroundings, and just the plain stupidity of charging headlong into danger, the characters became tough to rally behind when they constantly crippled themselves with bad logic. Coupled with unrealistic and inequitable injuries among the characters, suspension of disbelief is a requirement for this safari ride. The relationships and emotional undertones also suffer from some stiff and clunky acting from the young co-stars, whose chemistry with Elba doesn’t quite leap off the screen enough (ironically enough, Elba didn’t cast his own daughter due to chemistry concerns). The writing, although tight and concentrated, suffers from predictability, with the viewer able to discern pretty early on what the end result is going to be.
Ultimately, the high tension and thrills of Beast cover some of the blemishes that are present throughout. If you’re a fan of other animal attack movies, Beast is certainly not a waste of your time. It will leave you with plenty of edge-of-your-seat moments and won’t inundate you with unimportant filler. This film knows exactly what it is and it packs plenty of engaging action and fun into 90 minutes. There are much worse ways to spend your time than watching Idris Elba fistfight an angry lion.
Are you taking this safari with Idris Elba and company, or will you be staying at basecamp and avoiding the hungry predators? Beast can be seen at theaters across the country today.
Have you confronted the Beast? Sound off in the comments and share your thoughts!