"Beast" stars Idris Elba, Iyana Halley, Leah Sava Jeffries, and Sharlto Copley. Released on August 19, 2022, the film has a widowed husband defending his daughters from a rogue lion.
The film is directed by Baltasar Kormákur, who also directed films such as "The Sea", "Contraband", "2 Guns", and "Adrift". Everybody likes a good safari once in a while. They get to see the beautiful sights in Africa and experience the circle of life. But, of course, someone or some animal tends to ruin that fun. This month has delivered nothing but pure thrills so far, whether from the big screen or on a streaming service. This isn't surprising since people need one last adrenaline rush before they return to school or work this fall. This weekend, the trend continues with another fight for survival between man and nature. Instead of being stranded on top of the tallest radio tower like in "Fall", the film has someone battling a pissed-off lion. Why? Because apparently, someone just had to invade its territory. With a concept like that, this was something I couldn't pass up on, especially since it's got Idris Elba on board. By the way, this is one of two films this month that feature the actor, with his second movie coming out pretty soon. Until then, we're stuck seeing Elba go toe-to-toe with the lion king. Was this match-up worth seeing on the big screen, or are we better off seeing Elba voice a cartoon echidna again? Let's find out.
The story centers on Dr. Nate Samuels (Elba), a father who recently lost his wife. He is left to raise his two teenage daughters, Meredith (Halley) and Norah (Jeffries). One day, Nate and his daughters take a long-planned trip to South Africa, where he first met his wife, to attend a reserve managed by Martin Battles (Copley), a wildlife biologist and an old family friend. While on a safari, the family encounters a dangerous presence that threatens to destroy their peaceful vacation. It is a ferocious, wild lion that's suddenly attacking people and killing anyone in its path. Nate will have to outsmart the apex predator to escape unscathed while protecting his daughters from becoming its next lunch.
Kormákur is no stranger to helming films involving humans battling against the forces of nature. "Everest" was a tense and dizzying depiction of the 1996 Mount Everest disaster filled with an all-star cast. "Adrift", the director's previous movie, was also decent in showcasing a couple's struggle for survival after Hurricane Raymond left them stranded in the Pacific Ocean. "Beast" sees the filmmaker tackling the genre again, but with an apex predator threatening the humans instead of Mother Nature. However, the only difference between this and Kormákur's other survival movies is that "Beast" is not based on actual events. Instead, it's an original idea by Jaime Primak Sullivan from "Jersey Belle". However, that doesn't make this scenario any less thrilling.
"Beast" offers a simple yet enjoyable man vs. nature plot that pits Idris Elba against a rogue lion with a pretty understandable reason for its rampage. More importantly, it is also a story about a father's grief over his wife's death and his struggle to win back his daughters' trust. Fortunately for him, the only way to do that is to punch the lion in the face. Unsurprisingly, this narrative isn't something we haven't seen before. It follows the basic storyline about grief step-by-step amid the characters surviving a lion attack. Despite its tolerable moments, Ryan Engle's script didn't do much to expand on its themes and character depth. However, if you don't care much about how the story is and want to see Elba fight a lion, I'm glad to say that "Beast" delivered on that promise. It's not going to win any awards for its storytelling, and the first act felt a bit sluggish in some places. But once the lion appears to feast on the unlucky victims, it's a non-stop thrill ride from start to finish.
The film's main cast is limited, meaning they had to pull off all the stops to carry the movie with their performances. Fortunately, they did pretty well for the most part. Idris Elba makes for an enjoyable presence on screen yet again regarding his role as Nate Samuels. While far from the best he's done in his career, Elba did well in offering a sense of subtlety in his character's grieving state and protective nature. Sharlto Copley also delivered an acceptable performance as Martin. The two young actresses portraying Nate's daughters, Iyana Halley and Leah Sava Jeffries, were suitable in their first roles. While there were times when the daughters make decisions that'll make horror fans go nuts for the wrong reasons, they were tolerable to watch due to the actresses' portrayals.
Kormákur doesn't hold back on providing tension in the "survival against nature" trope, which is one of the reasons why I enjoyed "Everest" back in 2015. "Beast" has the filmmaker repeating the same trick to portray people being hunted by a huge cat, and the result is pretty impressive. Despite a few moments that may be a bit far-fetched, Kormákur managed to keep the scenario contained and authentic by capturing the suspense and terror of something that could happen in real life. Additionally, the director made a good choice in using the film's jump scares wisely, as there were a couple of moments that actually terrified me. I would also give massive props to the cinematography by Philippe Rousselot. There were many scenes where the camera followed the characters in a continuous take. These shots helped me feel more immersive in the film's action without any unnecessary mini cuts. Plus, they looked great regarding the African settings.
Overall, "Beast" is a serviceable popcorn thriller that audiences in need of an old-fashioned tension-filled experience would feast on. Even though its narrative lacks a ferocious bite, it managed to meet the expectation of being a fun and tense survival movie and nothing else. Idris Elba is just as talented as ever, along with the supporting cast. Kormákur proves himself to be a confident and skilled director regarding the survival genre, and the cinematography is immersive for its long continuous takes. It's another film that seeks to give audiences a good and frightening time instead of being an awards contender. To me, that's a-okay as long as it has something that makes it worth their time and mine, which it did. Don't expect anything more from a film about Idris Elba punching a lion in the face, and you might have a fun time with it too.
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