Directed By: Baltasar Kormakur
Writers: Ryan Engle, Jaime Primak Sullivan
Produced By: Baltasar Kormakur, James Lopez, Will Packer
Starring: Idris Elba. Sharlto Copley, Iyana Halley
Distributed By: Universal Pictures
Release Date: August 19, 2022
Beast, a very compact and efficient thriller, opens this weekend in Prague theaters before its U.S. release on August 19. It follows a grieving father as he tries to keep his two young children safe from a hungry lion.
Due in large part to Idris Elba’s commanding performance as the film’s protagonist, Baltasar Kormákur’s incisive direction, and the film’s authentic evocation of life on the African savanna, Beast is one of the best films to focus on the jungle’s apex predators since 1996’s The Ghost and the Darkness.
The thrills are there, but the storyline is too simplistic, so there aren’t many shocks, and Beast also has the misfortune of premiering just after the similarly themed and better Prey.
New York doctor Nate Samuels (Elba), together with daughters Meredith (Iyana Halley) and Norah (Leah Jeffries), go to their mother’s remote African homeland after her death. Since Nate and his wife were not together when she passed away, the family plans to use the vacation as a means of healing.
Their boyhood buddy Martin Battles (Sharlto Copely), now a park ranger who defends the local pride of lions from poachers, is the ideal companion for their safari into the savanna.
After discovering a small hamlet has been mauled to death, the family’s vacation swiftly turns into a nightmare as they come face to face with the perpetrator: a furious male lion whose pride has been wiped out by poachers and is now seeking retribution.
Unfortunately for Nate and his girls, their vehicle has broken down in the middle of the desert, and they have no means of contacting anybody or getting help as the lion prowls the plains outside.
The lions in Beast are a product of some very realistic CGI, interwoven into the narrative. Elba and the lion engage in a brutal final showdown reminiscent of Leonardo DiCaprio’s attack by a bear in The Revenant, but with a somewhat different outcome.
What Should We Expect?
Beast is a basic, no-nonsense thriller on par with works by Alexandre Aja (whose Crawl has alligators) and it lives up to expectations in that regard. The addition of Copley’s character, who has some grit, reality, and even academic background, is welcome; yet, Beast is far less ambitious than, say, The Ghost and the Darkness.
The script, adapted by Ryan Engle (Rampage) from a tale by Jaime Primak Sullivan, could have used some surprises as well. The storyline of Beast is so sparse that we can predict its outcome before the conclusion of the first act, and by the climax, we’re even hearing plot elements used as throwaway lines.
Even though Beast started out as somewhat of a low-budget B-movie, the efforts of everyone involved in the film’s creation make it become something greater. Elba offers an unexpectedly sincere performance as the distraught father; he’s not phoning it in at all. Meanwhile, Copely is (as usual) a shining light in the supporting cast.
With the same sure hand he’s given to films of grander scale, Icelandic filmmaker Kormákur (Everest, 2 Guns) tackles Beast, and the result is a tense little thriller that keeps us on the watch for its man-eating predator for much of the picture.