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Beast Review

August 19, 2022 | Posted by Jeffrey Harris
Beast Image Credit: Universal Pictures
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Beast Review  

Directed By: Baltasar Kormákur
Written By: Ryan Engle
Runtime: 93 minutes
MPA Rating: R For violent content, bloody images and some language

Idris Elba – Dr. Nate Samuels
Sharlto Copley – Martin Battles
Iyana Halley – Meredith “Mare” Samuels
Leah Jeffries – Norah Samuels
Martin Munro – Kees

Idris Elba must contend with one of nature’s most dangerous apex predators in the new Universal Pictures release, Beast. Beast is an unassuming movie that arrives in theaters without a ton of hype, but that ignorance elevates the viewing experience and makes it more entertaining.

Elba stars in the new animalistic thriller as Dr. Nate Samuels, a recently widowed father who is taking his teenage daughters Meredith (Halley) and Norah (Jeffries) on a trip to Africa to reconnect with them. There is tension between Nate and his kids since he was separated from their mother before she passed away due to cancer. So, Nate takes them back to their late mother’s homeland to bond and help mourn her loss.

Escorting the family on their African safari is reserve warden Martin Battles (Copley), an old family friend and wildlife expert who introduced Nate to his departed wife. Martin takes his role as a wildlife warden and conservationist very seriously, helping protect and raise lion cubs who were released back into the wild. The Samuels’ family VIP tour is soon unceremoniously broken up as they unwittingly enter the territory of a vengeful rogue lion. This beast is the last of his pride after poachers hunted down his entire pride, and now the lion seeks revenge on his new, natural enemy — humankind. Stranded in the middle of nowhere, Samuels is now locked in a primal battle of survival against an apex predator that is not hunting for sport, amusement, or food. This lion only wants revenge.

Despite a derivative premise and an oftentimes goofy script, Beast is surprisingly fun and entertaining. The script has no shortage of silly, dumb moments, and characters making awful decisions in heated situations. But the experience is elevated thanks largely to slick direction by filmmaker Baltasar Kormákur, who has done good work in the past on films such as 2 Guns and Everest. Not to mention, Idris Elba delivers his natural charisma to carry hackneyed dialogue and most insanely cliche moments forward with aplomb.

Throughout the film, Kormákur opts for long, extended shots. They serve to underscore the tension and suspense as the Samuels family finds themselves in exceedingly dire circumstances. Beast has multiple sequences that take place over one, singular, continuous shot, and these moments amp up the danger and intensity of the experience. More modern directors could learn from Kormákur’s techniques.

Beast’s cinematography by Philippe Rousselot and Baltasar Breki exceptionally brings out the natural beauty of the African jungle, along with its potential dangers if not given the proper care and respect.

The main drawback to Beast is the sometimes overly predictable, derivative script. Some of the scenes and dialogue involving Nate and his kids are lazy, paint-by-the-numbers, breaking the solid immersion set up by the directing, editing, and cinematography. While this isn’t all necessarily at the feet of Engle, interesting subplots are set up but later abandoned. A subplot about anti-poachers is seeded early on, but there is not enough of a suitable payoff to all the plot development for that particular subplot.

More regrettably, a chance is lost in making the film’s central antagonist, the rogue lion, into more of a tragic figure. The film’s prologue sets up the lion as an antihero of sorts. It is a wild animal who just saw its entire pack get butchered by illegal poachers. The lion does later stalk and attempt to hunt this Samuels family, but that is because it views all humans as its natural enemy. Humans invaded the pride’s territory and attacked them first.

That aside, Beast delivers on its promise of Idris Elba matching up against an angry lion. As ridiculous as that idea sounds, watching the scene unfold is gloriously entertaining. Beast is not a great film by any means, but with its brisk pacing and runtime, solid direction, and Elba’s charisma, it is an enjoyable and somewhat thrilling experience.

The final score: review Good
The 411
Baltasar Kormákur's solid, intense direction and Idris Elba's charisma overcome a schlocky, derivative script and make this a quick, entertaining affair. Beast is easy viewing. It is fairly simple and to the point, and you will be in and out in about an hour and thirty minutes. For a short, fairly gripping, man vs. nature's ultimate apex predator story, Beast has its good points. Moviegoers who simply want to see Idris Elba punch a lion in the face will not be disappointed.