Review by Sean Boelman
Beast is the type of movie where, if you go in knowing exactly what you will get out of the experience, you’re unlikely to come out feeling dissatisfied. It’s hardly a particularly intelligent film, but as a ninety-minute thriller about Idris Elba punching a lion, there’s not much more you could ask from it.
The movie follows a father and his two teenage daughters as they get stranded in the African savanna when they are attacked by a massive lion hellbent on protecting its territory. The story is not too dissimilar from the killer animal movies that peaked in popularity in the ‘80s and ‘90s that had a star facing off against an unnaturally powerful force of nature.
Admittedly, the film is entirely predictable. You know exactly where the story is heading. And yet, with a runtime that is just short ninety minutes before credits, the action is more than steady enough to keep viewers interested despite the fact that they will know the eventual ending of the movie.
Writer Ryan Engle attempts to infuse the movie with some meaning in the form of an environmentalist, anti-poacher message, but it largely feels shallow. Apart from setting up one of the coolest and most thrilling action sequences in the film, the poacher angle doesn’t do much of anything except lend itself to some bad dialogue.
The movie also forces an emotional backstory with a tear-jerking tale of the protagonist’s wife having died of cancer, leaving him a single father with two grieving and distant daughters. Ultimately, it ends up feeling a bit tacky given that the focus is on the action and there isn’t enough time to fully flesh this storyline out.
Idris Elba is a very versatile actor, as he is able to handle both more dramatic material and be a badass action star. Even though the one-liners he is being asked to deliver in this film are not particularly impressive in nature, Elba nonetheless exudes a charm and charisma that easily carries the movie. Sharlto Copley is also memorable and fun in his supporting role.
The CGI for the lion isn’t always the best, but the budget for this film is also surprisingly modest considering its reliance on the animated creature in the storyline. That said, it’s never laughably bad, and rarely ever distracts from the suspense, which is well-crafted by director Baltasar Kormákur.
Beast is about as lean of a survival thriller as there can be. Although the movie’s attempts at adding substance consistently fall flat, that is unlikely to be what audiences are buying a ticket to see, and it delivers on its promise of big cat action.
Beast hits theaters on August 19.