Director: Baltasar Kormákur
Starring: Idris Elba, Iyana Halley, Leah Sava Jeffries, Sharlto Copley
Run Time: 93 mins
Beast is a survival creature feature directed by Baltasar Kormákur. Kormákur is an excellent director – 2 Guns is very enjoyable and Everest is an awe-inspiring and harrowing account of the 1996 disaster. He’s also proved himself adept at leaner survival genre with films such as Adrift and The Deep.
Idris Elba plays a recently widowed doctor, Nate Samuels, who travels to South Africa with his two teenage daughters, Meredith (Iyana Halley) and Norah (Leah Sava Jeffries). Samuels reunites with his wildlife biologist and reserve manager friend Martin Battles (Sharlto Copley). He explains to Battles the trip is designed to reconnect with his daughters. When they visit Samuels’ wife’s home community, they discover most of the population is dead and a rogue, ferocious lion has wiped them out in a rage-fuelled attack. They quickly cross paths with the lion and what follows is a cat-and-mouse game of survival, with all of the characters having to use their instincts and strengths.
Beast may have a rather simplistic set-up but Kormákur largely pulls it off. It doesn’t really have any surprises up its sleeve but it’s a competently made survival action thriller and it mostly maintains tension throughout. It also doesn’t outstay its welcome at a breezy 93 minutes and it’s well-paced.
Elba is excellent in the lead role, and he’s able to balance both the physical requirements of the role and the pathos and parental instinct needed to communicate with his daughters. Both of the daughters begin the film as rather annoying, whiny characters and as you might expect, make some idiotic decisions. However, the character arc of the family is serviceable enough and it’s enough to carry the film when the lion doesn’t take centre stage. Copley is always a bright spot in whatever he’s in, with fun performances in Elysium and Chappie and he’s clearly having fun too, brings his upbeat energy.
The film is impressively shot by Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them cinematographer Philippe Rousselot and there are surprisingly lots of long takes for a creature feature. This helps build tension and invites you to study the frame to work out what might be happening in the background. There’s also a thoughtful score from Steven Price, which is both melodic and intense.
Ultimately, Beast is an above average entry for this type of film. It’s not particularly intelligent and the character set-up doesn’t break any boundaries. Idris Elba deftly carries the film and Kormákur leaves enough of a mark to make this an entertaining feature, even if it’s far from his best film. Sometimes, you need a film where a man punches a big cat.