Starring Idris Elba, Iyana Halley, Leah Sava Jeffries and Sharlto Copley
If you’re looking for one last vacation before school starts, “Beast” takes the audience to South Africa on a treacherous adventure. Depending on your expectations, this made-for-TV movie delivers predictable thrills, and suspense and functions mostly like a watered-down “Jurassic Park.”
Baltasar Kormákur is a hit-or-miss director, with surprising nuance in thrillers like “Adrift” (2018), to the forgettable and bland “Everest” (2015). “Beast” lands somewhere in the middle. The only reason something like this isn’t dropping directly on home subscriptions is Idris Elba and a lack of options at the box office. If cheap thrills and continuously bad dialogue won’t degrade your experience, then “Beast” might provide you with a solid 90 minutes of entertainment.
Desperate to heal his broken family, Dr. Nate Samuels (Elba) returns to the homeland of his recently deceased wife. His daughters Norah (Leah Sava Jeffries) and Mer (Iyana Halley) resent their father for walking away when the women in his life needed him the most. Off the grid, with no wifi or cell phone service, the family has only their uncle Martin (Sharito Copley), Nate’s best friend, to take them on an exclusive and private tour of the most beautiful animals in the world. Poachers have disturbed local wildlife, especially lions. Having recently killed an entire pride, these animal killers missed one male, who has become a super predator. The Samuels family is caught in a dangerous situation of beast versus man.
Tight shots throughout keep the focus on the characters and their fear.
“One way or another, everyone depends on the animals for survival,” Martin explains at the onset of their nature tour. Kormákur directs in bold strokes here, without an ounce of subtlety. His cinematographer Philippe Rousselot makes questionable choices that never quite convey beauty for the land or the situations. Tight shots throughout keep the focus on the characters and their fear. While Elba is acting his heart out, the two young female performances are sabotaged by bad writing. It’s as if the director’s only instruction was simply to never stop talking, no matter what was happening in the scene. At least every 15 minutes a character says “stay here,” like clockwork. And every 16 minutes, no one stays put.
“Beast” wants to function like a horror safari. All it’s missing is a deep voice saying “The hunter becomes the hunted.” It’s not a clever film, never surprising or even technically impressive. It’s humans running scared of a bloodthirsty lion as they make one bad decision after another just to get the audience to groan in protest.
“Beast” antagonizes the viewer to condemn the foolish decisions of the characters. Instead of using silence to fuel suspense, endless talking increases our anxiety in varying scenarios. It’s a shallow thriller that doesn’t offer anything new to the genre but will likely keep you entertained for the short running time.
This Beast can’t outrun a lazy script or injuries caused by stereotypes of the genre.