REVIEW — “Beast”
Directed by Baltasar Kormákur (2 Guns, Contraband) and written by Ryan Engle, Universal Pictures’ Beast is a ferocious and action-packed man-versus-beast thriller dripping with blood-thirsty tension that will keep you on the edge of your seat throughout its brisk 93 minute running time.
Beast gives off heavy The Ghost and the Darkness vibes. However, that slick and pulse-pounding 1996 man-eating lion thriller starring Val Kilmer and Michael Douglas was based on a true story and used real lions for most of its action scenes. Here we get CGI lions. But while the lions in Beast are all computer-generated, they are no less terrifying thanks to the script’s built-up tension and Kormákur’s clever direction. The director uses Hitchcokian tricks like tightly shot action and hidden corners to keep the audience in peril. The sound design is also effectively alarming.
The film follows widowed father Dr. Nate Daniels (Elba) as he takes his two teenage, city-girl daughters Mer (Iyana Halley) and Norah (Leah Sava Jeffries) on a trip to their late mother’s South African homeland to reconnect, bless the rains, and take some time to do the things they never had (ooh, ooh). They are greeted by their “Uncle” Martin (Sharlto Copley), a safari game reserve enforcer and biologist who grew up with their mom. After some awkward father-daughter family drama, Martin decides to invite the Daniels on a run through the brush to really experience the African wonders and wildlife. Little do they know that there is a wounded and scorned apex predator on the prowl that, thanks to (literally) heartless poachers, now has a taste for blood. Stranded in the savannah with no radio or cell reception, the family must fight to survive against one of the world’s most deadly beasts.
Copely’s accented charm is on full display as an empathetic and well-equipped animal-lover being hunted by a fearsome lion. Unfortunately, the film often dips into viewer frustration that results in the audience screaming orders at the screen: “Stay in the car,” “Roll up the window,” “Shut up!” The eldest daughter Mer is the film’s biggest offender. Her frequent disobedient and impulsive actions constantly put everyone at risk. However, the resourceful and funny younger daughter Norah is the real MVP of the film.
In every one of his roles, Idris Elba is always, without a doubt, The Man. In Beast, he plays a dedicated father haunted by his past shortcomings who, while out of his element, finds the courage to defend his family against a savage threat. However, while his character is educated and clever, it’s a little bewildering that he chooses to bring a knife to a lion fight. While the final battle may seem unbelievable, my advice is to suspend your disbelief and enjoy the wild ride.
Rated R for violent content, bloody images and some language, Beast opens in theaters August 19, 2022.