Beast – Film Review
by Fran Winston
Directed by: Baltasar Kormákur
Starring: Idris Elba, Iyana Halley, Leah Sava Jeffries, Sharlto Copley
In cinemas 26th August
Man vs beast is a tale as old as…well… men and beasts. From David and Goliath to St George and the Dragon and everything in between there is a long tradition of these stories. In cinema, the man vs beast movie has been a staple since its inception although for every Jaws there are a dozen Piranhas, and yet filmmakers continue to make these pictures which usually pitch a rugged man against some real or imagined creature in a fight to the death.
In this case, the rugged gent in question is Idris Elba and the beast is a rogue lion on a game reserve in South Africa. Elba plays Dr Nate Samuels whose ex-wife recently died leaving him the sole carer for their two teenage daughters. He decides to take them to South Africa to the village where their mother grew up. There they liaise with old family friend Martin (Copley) who brings them on a tour of the restricted areas of the game reserve. Obviously, the wilds of South Africa and particularly restricted areas don’t have a reliable phone signal. So of course, the group stumble upon a massacre in a local village and realise that a rogue lion is on the loose and behaving completely out of character.
As is wont in these films, they find themselves stranded when their transport breaks down and are forced to spend the night in fear of the raging predator. Throw in some poachers and rapidly dwindling water supplies and the scene is set for a tense stand-off.
Except this never really gets that tense. The first quarter of the movie is spent trying to establish the emotional stakes for Nate and his family and it’s nothing we haven’t seen and heard in hundreds of movies before. While Elba and Copley are great at finding the emotion in what are some pretty rote exposition scenes, their performances can’t detract from the fact that the material is thinner than the material in Kim Kardashian’s clothing, but that’s OK. Jaws isn’t exactly Shakespeare and that works. But in that epic, the spectacle of the scenes fighting the shark elevates it to another level. Unfortunately, here, the confrontation scenes are run of the mill rather than exciting and have nothing we haven’t seen done before and done better. Again, Elba throws himself into it but you never really get the sense that he is in real danger.
This is a very weak story that relies on the set pieces to sell it… and that’s fine. And the movie is fine. It’s a pleasant enough way to kill 90 minutes, but it’s not the thrill ride that it should have been or that trailers indicated it was. If it popped up on a streamer it would be great Saturday afternoon viewing but as a big screen outing, it disappoints except for the presence of the always watchable and engaging Elba.