Beast — Good, Bad, and Ugly.
After a period of releases that didn’t really interest me, I finally found one that I fancied giving a go — Idris Elba starrer “Beast”.
The story follows Nate, a single father with his two daughters visiting the African village of their late wife and mother. However, their safari trip goes wrong when they discover a rogue lion is on the loose seemingly seeking revenge for the murder of it’s pride by poachers. How the family become entangled in this cat and mouse (pun unintended) chase and how Nate protects his family is what forms the main plot.
Let’s start with Idris Elba — he carries this one on his shoulders with ease. His strong screen presence and emotive eyes in particular prove to be a huge plus in this film. His relationship with the two daughters isn’t explored in huge depth but with the information we’re given we can buy into the stakes and he pulls it off well.
With regards to supporting cast, Sharlto Copley as Nates’ best friend Martin is a big show stealer. I thought he did a fantastic job and even though he was eventually used as a plot progression tool, I thought the performance sold and he was a memorable part of the story.
In this genre of film — “animal/creature on the loose, humans fighting for survival”, you normally see character development and backstory be near enough neglected. This film tries to provide something with the failing father trying to right by his daughter dynamic but inevitably it doesn’t quite land. It does enough to make us care, but that’s the bare minimum.
A big issue for me is the actual threat — it’s just a regular lion. Why this lion is so special, what makes it more dangerous, how it survives certain elements of attack (not diving into spoilers) and how it displays certain behaviours is never really explained, you’re expect to roll with it.
There are moments where I found myself sitting there thinking, “hang on, what sort of lion is this thing?!” and that is a question a film like this should have a clear answer for — and yet when you walk out the answers aren’t any clearer. There’s a lot of logic that needs to be suspended at several points, including a very convenient climax.
There are things it does extremely well though — and one of these is the cinematography. There’s heavy usage of one take shots and they are perfect for the kind of tone and suspense the film wants you to film. Not only does it allow you linger on every emotion, every nervous breath and shift of the eyes but it also creates an uneasy feeling, not knowing whether a scene is quite what you think it is. It works really well and I enjoyed it a lot.
This with the music score works really well at creating tension and nervous energy. In fact, the film’s strongest point is that it isn’t predictable — you don’t get the usual “person hiding behind the table and creature walks up the corridor into shot”, you get interesting and creative situations that work. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt this genre of film has been fresh.
In summary, this film displays the good, the bad and the ugly — but it isn’t predictable. It sticks to the formula but it somehow also keeps it fresh. It does a lot well but it also takes liberties. It’s an enjoyable watch but it’s nowhere near a perfect article.
“Beast” is out now in cinemas only.