Beast (2022) Lets Out a Suitable Roar for Creature Feature Lovers
First Non-Festival Release: August 10, 2022 (Theatrical Release)
Director: Baltasar Kormâkur
Writer: Ryan Engle, Jaime Primak Sullivan
Runtime: 93 Minutes
Starring: Idris Elba, Leah Jeffries, Iyana Halley
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
Thinking that a trip to their late mother’s homeland will solve their family’s issues, Dr. Nate Samuels (Idris Elba) books several flights for himself and his daughters, Norah (Leah Jeffries) and Meredith (Iyana Halley), to make their journey. Once they land in South Africa, the crew is greeted by their “uncle” Martin (Sharlto Copley), one of Nate’s pals from college, who introduced him to his late wife. Martin works as a ranger monitoring the wildlife in the area and protecting them from poachers. While on a normal safari, however, the group comes face to face with a grisly discovery and, eventually, the animal that did it. They must rely on their wits and determination to survive, if they want to escape from the clutches of a vengeful lion.
Serviceable animal attack action horror Beast takes audiences on a predictable ride through South Africa.
When domestics go abroad, there is a certain formula followed to ensure that whatever horrors are maximized and that the isolation, language barrier, and/or elements make it difficult for the characters to make it out alive. Beast follows the formula to a t, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Typically, the issues arise when the local populations are written as untrustworthy or immoral. Thankfully, of all the tropes to subvert, Beast chooses to ignore this, by providing a breadth of characterization for everyone the family meets along the way.
At the center of Beast is Idris Elba’s confident portrayal of Nate. Throughout the film, Elba works to develop Nate beyond the typical confines of monster movie heroes. Keeping the courageousness of action heroes, Elba decides to level with the raw emotions and reality of the situation. His fear and anxiety is palpable on screen, which is rarely afforded to male leads in creature features. This is especially true in the finale and the way in which Nate chooses to face the lion. There is still ample muscularity and force involved on Elba’s part, but he also brings in the mixed emotions of trepidation and pain while coming to terms with the possibility he may not make it out of there alive.
The development of Nate helps Elba convincingly sell the gravity of the situation. His strained relationships with his daughters and his fish-out-of-water anxiety of being out in the wild with his dying friend makes for some compelling moments. Ironically, the biggest contentions Nate’s daughters have with him stem from his absence, which, in Beast, is where the moments further develop that narrative due to his practical need of keeping them alive. Between Martin’s insistence that Nate cares for them and Nate’s willingness to show it by facing a lion, the iciness thaws over the course of the safari ride from hell.
Despite it not rocking the world, Beast is a solid action horror film that delivers on its premise. It hits all the familiar beats one would expect in an animals attack film down to the not-so-subtle moral messaging on poaching and conservation. Some of the acting from the younger cast doesn’t work, but the moments are few and far between as their screen time is limited compared to Elba and Copley. Iffy effects work is easily disregarded when the pulse-pounding action sequences distract from any of the more egregious moments. Even when the creature is out in the open, it never looks silly, which is important in this type of film.
There’s nothing wrong with making a perfectly fine movie and Beast is just that film. Decidedly middle of the road, Beast is content to have a good time with its popcorn story of Americans getting stuck in trouble abroad due to beef with the local wildlife. Idris Elba is as affable as ever but even his performance can’t elevate the film beyond its average confines. Resigned to its generic script and stuck with so-so lion special effects work, Beast is a solid film to kill time for when shuffling through whatever streaming service it is bound to land on a few months from now. If you want something that has more of a roar than a growl, however, Beast is likely going to leave you wanting more.
Overall Score? 6/10