Beast Movie Review (Spoiler Free)
The vast planes of the South African wilderness, a rogue lion & Idris Elba fighting for his life. On paper a recipe for success… what could go wrong, right?
Genre: Drama / Horror / Thriller
Director: Baltasar Kormákur
Cast: Idris Elba, Sharlto Copley, Iyana Halley & Leah Jeffries.
Run Time: 93 min.
US Release: 19 August 2022
UK Release: 26 August 2022
German Release: 25 August 2022
This movie flew entirely under my radar until I saw a trailer for it on YouTube, just a couple of days before its release. The trailer already looked slightly ridiculous, especially when it revealed a scene where Idris Elba punches a lion with his bare fists. Granted the scene unravels a little different at the end, however, Kormákur’s newest picture is nonetheless a very disappointing survivor flick, not only because of incredibly idiotic side characters. So fasten your seatbelts and enjoy the tour through my review for Beast!
A recently widowed father and his two teenage daughters visit a South African game reserve. They soon find themselves hunted by a massive rogue lion, who is intent on proving that the Savanna has but one apex predator. A game of cat and mouse ensues.
The screenplay by Ryan Engle combines the dark adventure of The Ghost & the Darkness, with horror-survival a-la Crawl. In theory, this sounds very intriguing; especially with an actor like Idris Elba attached to the project yet Engle, as well as director Kormákur, decided to add some misplaced teenage-family drama, which dragged down the overall quality of the narrative. The kitsch is at times cranked up and doesn’t really fit the essence of the story. Then there is the issue of implementing stupid decision-making by the characters, as the director plus writer didn’t have enough trust to create a contained plot inside a vehicle.
Beast is not a complete disappointment though. It contains moments of brilliance, as it did manage to contain and wind up suspense, for a reasonable amount of time, while the family was trapped in the Jeep. The side-story about the anti-poachers, including their fight against illegal hunting, is intriguing and could have been expanded more, just like the backstory about Elba’s character and his deceased wife, of which the audience obtains only short glimpses.
The dialogue is at times, among the laziest I have heard in a long time. While the dynamic between Elba and Copley sounded like two friends re-uniting after years, the drama inside the family could have been taken straight from a CW Tv show. It is over-dramatized and simply misplaced as they need to fight for survival.
The biggest issue with Beast are the characters! While Idris Elba gives a strong, believable performance as Dr. Nate Samuels, his portrayal while fighting a fully grown lion is simply unconvincing! Nate is an absent but devoted father, whose marriage to his wife deteriorated just before she died. He tries to make it up to his daughters with a trip to the African village their mother was born, although he encounters resistance at first, especially from his eldest daughter. The chemistry between Elba and Iyana Halley is a little off.
Sharlto Copley portrays Martin Battles, a wildlife biologist. Copley gives another good, convincing performance, as well as having impeccable chemistry with Idris Elba, cementing their friendship on film. Although not much is revealed about his character, Martin proves to be a great tracker. It is a shame that the character did not obtain a little bit more of a backstory, as his fight against poachers would have made for a better narrative.
Iyana Halley as Nate’s oldest daughter Meredith is possibly one of the worst written characters. While plausible, her anger at her father is completely exaggerated to the point that it becomes irritating, forcing drama at the wrong time and raising issues that have nothing to do inside a life-or-death scenario. Then there is the fact that she doesn’t listen to her father, making absolute stupid decisions, while a rogue lion is roaming the nearby vicinities, which makes the viewers start rooting for the wild cat.
Leah Jeffreys plays Norah, Meredith's younger sister plus Nate’s second daughter. Jeffery gives an alright performance, at times acting a little wooden. Norah on the other hand, is the smarter of the two siblings, even if she gets a touch hysteric at times, but given their situation, it is more than reasonable.
Undoubtedly being the best aspect of this film, the cinematography is gorgeous to look at! The camera movements are suave, using the one-shot technique to illustrate specific scenes as being one take, as well as using cuts that flawlessly blend into the next scenes. The panoramic shots of the South African Savana are breathtaking, while the colour palette complements the setting. The picture is crystal clear. There is just one flaw during the final action sequence, in which the pans were so shaky and the sunlight so bright, to mask the lion's brutal attacks.
The lions are fully CG rendered, looking mostly good, especially during night scenes. Still, especially when interacting with actors, the CG becomes quite visible.
Verdict: All in all, Baltasar Kormákur’s survival horror is a mediocre picture with a couple of thrills but a bland backstory. The side plot about animal cruelty is sadly underdeveloped and doesn’t really lead anywhere, while the dramatic core of the narrative is overly exaggerated, as well as misplaced, interrupting the build-up of tension. The dialogues are at times laughably bad, however, it is the characters that really compromise the entertainment. Most are underdeveloped and then there is the eldest daughter, who makes implausible decisions that should have cost her life! That said, Elba plus Copley give strong performances with the limited amount they were given. Where this movie shines, is the cinematography and effects, as it is gorgeous to look at! The computer-generated lions might look at times a little unrealistic, though for the most part movement and facial motion is well animated. In the end, Beast is not worth more than a 5.5 out of 10.
Have you seen Beast yet? Do you agree with my review? Leave a comment & let me know. Thank you so much for reading, if you enjoy my reviews make sure to subscribe!