Following the death of his ex-wife from a terminal illness, Dr. Nate Samuels takes his teenage daughters, Norah and Meredith, on a vacation to a reserve in South Africa. Upon arrival, the trio meet up with Nate’s old friend, Martin, who drives them to a nearby village where they will stay.
The next morning, Nate, Martin, and the two girls get into a jeep and set off on a tour of the reserve. The group see a pride of lions in the wild, before Martin says he will take everyone to meet a local community he is friendly with.
However, when they arrive, the group discover the entire population of this community is dead. It would appear they have been slain by a lion, although this seems very unusual, as it is largely unheard of for one lion to attack and kill so many people.
Keen to report the tragic situation to the authorities, the group climb into their jeep and head off. But they are soon stopped in their tracks when they discover an injured man lying in the road, who has been attacked by a very aggressive lion.
But if the man is here, and still alive, this means the lion can’t be far away. And as the group quickly discover, if the animal is close by, they are in imminent danger.
Directed by Baltasar Kormákur, Beast is a survival-thriller starring Idris Elba, Sharlto Copley, Iyana Halley, and Leah Sava Jeffries. The movie is currently playing in UK cinemas, where it has been on general release for the past couple of weeks.
It has taken me a couple of weeks to review this movie, because I will admit, I was less than excited about seeing it. The trailers for Beast seemed to suggest it was essentially a film in which Idris Elba battles a lion (which it kind of is), and with it being released during the arse-end of the summer season, where movies go to die, things weren’t looking great for this picture.
However, I will openly hold my hands up now and say my preconceptions about Beast have proved somewhat wrong. I expected this movie to be a complete dud, as well as a total waste of time and money, and yet, this is simply not the case.
Having sat through all 93-minutes of Beast, I must say I was pleasantly surprised by the movie. OK, this isn’t award-winning stuff, nor is it original, but it sure is entertaining.
As the plot summary suggests, Beast is basically a picture in which a lion stalks a bunch of people, including Idris Elba. A good chunk of the movie sees the lion trap Elba and Co. in a couple of locations, including most notably a jeep, and for the most part it is a film about surviving one terrifying situation, only to move onto another.
The story is very simple. There are not many twists and turns to the narrative, just a series of set pieces, with a bit of character development thrown into the mix.
So, with not much going on in the story department, this film could have easily fallen apart in front of the cameras. But Beast doesn’t fall apart, and instead, it holds together remarkably well.
It does so because of what is going on in front of the camera, and what is going on behind. This is a tightly constructed film, that knows exactly what to do and when to do it, and how to make use of its resources.
In terms of what’s on screen, the film looks good and the central actors deliver strong performances. The ever-reliable Idris Elba is on top form, and certainly knows how to throw himself around the South African landscape when required.
In terms of what’s going on off-screen, there is some smart direction in play. This whole thing runs like clockwork, ensuring there are no dull moments, and the film truly benefits from some excellent camera work.
Remember Jaws? Remember how well that movie worked, because of the way in which the camera put the audience into each scene? Well, Beast adopts a similar tactic.
There are a number of scenes in this film in which some very frenetic camera shots help to enhance the action. These shots add elements of suspense and danger to the story, build up the tension, and in many cases, help put the audience into a scene.
Once again, this is a film which knows what it is doing. This movie hasn’t been thrown together, each shot and each scene has been carefully considered.
I believe it’s fair to say that director Baltasar Kormákur has looked to a number of classic survival movies for his inspiration, ranging from the aforementioned Jaws to the likes of Cujo. The other most obvious influence in play here is Jurassic Park, which casts quite a shadow over this movie, but in a good way.
Those who are familiar with Jurassic Park (which I expect is most people on the planet) will notice some similarities between Beast and the dino epic. I counted at least three scenes that pay homage to Steven Spielberg’s dinosaur movie, and if you’re a fan of that film (and who isn’t?) you’ll spot them too.
You’ll also spot one of the characters wearing a JP shirt during an early scene, which is included as a nod and a wink to the franchise. As I say, all of these influences – especially the Jurassic Park stuff – appear to be intentional, with the director making it clear he loves these types of films and wants to make something similar.
Does Beast hit the same heights as say, Jurassic Park or Jaws? No; but it doesn’t need to.
All the film needs to do is provide some solid entertainment to fill out its running time, and it does this without any problems. The whole thing ticks along quite nicely, building enough momentum to ensure no one gets bored, and the end result is a perfectly good thriller.
To reiterate what I said above, this isn’t award-winning stuff, but Beast certainly knows how to entertain. It’s the sort of movie you stumble across on television or on a streaming service, you know little about it, you end up watching from start to finish anyway, and you come away having had a relatively good time.
Yes, this movie is ‘Idris Elba versus a lion’, but it is also so much more. If you’re after a film that will give you enough thrills and spills in all the right places, then Beast meets that quota.
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