A ‘regular guy vs wild’ flick, Beast reminded me of films like The Grey and Cujo which isn’t a bad thing. Beast is presented in such a way that hits hard and provides an edge-of-your-seat thrilling ride.
Beast is an adventure horror set in the south African savannah during a safari gone horribly wrong. After the death of his estranged wife, Dr Nate Samuels (Idris Elba) and his daughters Norah (Leah Jeffries) and Meredith (Iyana Halley) travel to his wife’s homeland as a bonding vacation.
His late wife’s childhood friend Martin (Sharlto Copley) is a wilderness protector who intends to show them the beauty of the African wildlife. Unbeknownst to them, nearby poachers have attacked a pride of lions which has driven one particularly large male mad with rage. This rogue lion in its fury will stop at nothing to kill any human it sees and unfortunately the Samuels expedition is headed right into this monster’s hunting grounds.
Much of the film leans on the charisma of both of its leading men and the bond between Nate and Martin was a highlight as Elba and Copley naturally play off each other like long-time friends. It may have been out of place to go much further into detail on their back stories, as many audiences would want to quickly get to the action. But it’s unfortunate that expanding on the characters wasn’t utilised, as this is something both characters could have benefited from. I liked the twist that Nate, our ‘hero’, is completely out of his depth in the wild and must protect not just his daughters, but the lion expert himself.
What’s always troubling with thrillers is the inclusion of child characters and what to do with them. Having them screaming from start to finish or overly confident, either way, it’s an issue. While Jeffries and Halley both do a fine job, there are almost unavoidable moments where their actions illicit frustration from the viewer. Perhaps more fine tuning could have been done to avoid that. Likewise, the family drama at the heart of the film, although handled well by the actors involved, does seem out of place or feels forced at times in otherwise intense moments.
Although I have seen some of director Baltasar Kormákur‘s previous films, I don’t remember his camera work particularly standing out to me. On the other hand, from literally the opening scene, the film features extended Steadicam style sequences following its characters, ensuring that we are right there in the middle of the action with them. Sometimes this wasn’t entirely necessary but its consistent use throughout the film helped to make it not awkwardly stand out at any point.
Beautifully shot, the locations featured in Beast are some of the most beautiful and terrifying I’ve seen, almost looking like a nature documentary at times. The wildlife on display add to this and the film features some impressive CGI making it almost impossible to tell where the real animals end, and the Hollywood magic begins.
Beast features some extremely intense moments and there is plenty of gore to get the point across. There may be elements of frustration and clichés here and there, but this is still an entertaining and nail-biting thriller strengthened by great performances, an important message, and immersive camera work.