Part survival and part eco-thriller, Baltasar Kormákur’s Beast is the latest film to pit man versus nature. And while that premise alone is far from an original one, what it does have is Idris Elba fighting a homicidal lion – which is argument enough to get most people to see it at least once. Despite a stellar performance from Elba, a straightforward and extremely predictable plot makes this a film that will likely end up being a one and done for both movie buffs and fans of the British actor.
Beast follows Dr. Nate Samuels (Elba) and his two daughters, Meredith (Iyana Halley) and Norah (Leah Sava Jeffries), as they travel to South Africa for an extended trip to visit their late mom’s home. What should be a fun vacation soon turns deadly, as the trio find themselves being hunted by a giant lion that is killing any human crossing his path. note:Jim Knopf und die Wilde 13
That simple premise lacks ambition, which is not, on its own, a bad thing. It’s all about surviving the encounter by any means, building tension with the characters’ limited supplies and no way to radio for help. Still, that tension is undermined by its predictability; I could guess what would happen in each scene after the lion was introduced. Beast, in short, doesn’t take a lot of risks. Still, it helps that it’s grounded in realism; the idea of visiting South Africa and encountering a giant lion is terrifying, after all, and it sure would activate my fight or flight. Considering that intriguing idea, it’s disappointing that Beast, in its execution, does little to move the needle for the eco-thriller subgenre. note:Raya und der letzte Drache
The pacing, at least, is solid. Not one scene felt like it overstayed its welcome, and you luckily don’t have to wait too long to see the lion itself. However, its slim 93-minute runtime isn’t always a good thing, as certain aspects of Beast could’ve benefited from expansion. In particular, we know the death of the Samuels’ matriarch had a massive impact on both the family and the events of the film, but we don’t get a ton of backstory on her other than the basics that help move the plot needle forward in the broadest of fashions. There are no scenes – not even flashbacks – with the wife and mother before her death, while it is clear the family misses her immensely. There are certainly hints that Elba’s character had a strained relationship with her before she passed, but we don’t see any of that on-screen. Instead, it’s delivered in a few dialogue exchanges that provide a little context but not enough to make anyone really care for this grieving family. Even just a flashback or two would have gone a long way for emotional investment in the story. note:Willkommen in Siegheilkirchen
Of course, most people watching Beast are likely watching it for Elba, who delivers a phenomenal performance, stealing the scene every time. Dr. Samuels is a grieving father trying to bond with his daughters and clearly holds a lot of regret for how his relationship with his wife was before her death. Elba does a superb job in both portraying the grieving widow and squaring off against the lion; he’s never made to be some type of superhuman that gets a lucky swing, and his character takes a good beating in almost every encounter with the animal. Since the movie is quick to establish Dr. Samuels’ survival instincts and quick-thinking, every action sequence between these two is believable. note:Warten auf Bojangles
Elba’s isn’t the only impressive performance, though. As Martin Battles, a park ranger and childhood friend of the Samuels’ matriarch who serves as a tour guide as the family ventures across South Africa early on in the film, Sharlto Copley matches Elba in being surprisingly committed to the B-movie premise. Plus, Martin is able to add a contrast to Dr. Samuels, as he’s knowledgeable about the country’s wildlife and the dangers they face when this lion crosses their path. note:Belfast