To put Beast likely, it goes well with the group of movies described as creature features because you can have anybody in danger with basically any type of animal in their path to make for good thrillers, from time to time. In the past, people could have fun with them, in a guilty pleasure way, that’s remembered with Crawl, Anaconda, Jaws (obviously), and another lion-related thriller in The Ghost and the Darkness, to name a few examples. If you already know what to expect from this, Beast will be a solid time for those not having an intelligent conversation when it’s over. For me, though, it settles on being okay.
Dr. Nate Samuels (Idris Elba), a recently widowed father, visits an old family friend and wildlife reserve warden Martin Battles (Sharlto Copley) while visiting with his two daughters Meredith (Iyana Halley) and Norah (Leah Sava Jeffries) in the South African game reserve where their mother spent her formative years. This would allow Nate to reconcile with his children after she passed away. But their plans turn for the worst when their tour of the beautiful location gets interrupted by a rogue lion attacking their surroundings. With their truck stuck after hitting a tree and little to no connection on the radio, it’s up to them to survive.
Those short 93 minutes put you on edge, hoping this family doesn’t get killed by this vicious lion who doesn’t take kindly to poachers and makes damn sure he’s the king of the safari. There is a reason this ferocious animal becomes threatening that’s kind of understandable. I knew it would go down a pretty predictable route and most of the time is just them staying put in the truck. I guess it’s more disposable than what I wanted because that momentum tension falls back and forth where I didn’t fear for my life. What I didn’t care for was the family drama being the backbone of the movie instead of being a PSA on anti-poaching. That aspect takes away from experience I didn’t ask for a movie called Beast. Instead, the kids mostly bicker, especially the eldest daughter, about how Nate abandoned them when their mom was dying of cancer.
And, of course, the script by Ryan Engle has to go out of its way to not only have you suspending disbelief occasionally that makes little sense, like I had no clue lions can be immortal or that someone is more likely to die during the climax. But it had to have characters make the most questionable decisions they do that would’ve gotten them killed. Either it’s leaving the truck when it’s impossible to know where the lion could lurk, running off, or honking a loud horn. There was also a fake-out dream sequence that was pointless. And there’s so much you can do to sustain that man vs. animal premise for so long. The lion’s CGI look wasn’t the most realistic thing in the world. So, sometimes it looked good, while it appeared obviously fake during the nighttime shots. I also kept thinking this was PG-13 the entire time when it’s actually an R. Aside from a few bloody images, this felt like one of the tamest R-ratings I’ve watched.
On the positive side, I really enjoyed Idris Elba and Sharlto Copley’s performances. Elba’s role was better here than what he did in Three Thousand Years of Longing as this man doing what he can to keep his girls safe. And I still consider Sharlto Copley one underrated actor who can be good in an otherwise crappy movie; there was a good dynamic between them. Leah Sava Jeffries and Iyana Halley were fine with their performances too; I didn’t care for their characters because of how they were written. But I’ll give credit to director Baltasar Kormákur (2 Guns, Everest, Adrift) as he allows the viewer to be in this dangerous situation, which has been previously with his last two films, and that’s thanks to him and cinematographer Philippe Rousselot captures the beautiful scenery of the African location, but I noticed very early on there’s a lot of long take following the character through different areas. This wasn’t a movie I was interested in seeing in theaters since August was a definite dry spell, but renting it was the best opinion to think of.
Beast is what you expected for a straightforward premise of Idris Elba vs. a lion. But while his and Copley’s performances were great and the cinematography was actually impressive, the lack of characters making smart decisions made this survival thriller not as exciting as I thought. It’s average, but you’re better off watching other memorable tension-filled creature movies out there.
Beast was released is currently playing in theaters and is now available to rent/buy on various platforms. Runtime: 93 Minutes. Rated R for violent content, bloody images and some language. Studio: Universal Pictures.