Directed by: Baltasar Kormákur
Premise: A father (Idris Elba) and his two daughters (Iyana Halley and Leah Jeffries) tour a wildlife preserve in South Africa. They are stranded and stalked by a lion.
What Works: Beast is a killer animal thriller, putting it in the same genre as Jaws, Grizzly, and Cujo. These stories work when they tap into primal fears and Beast is a successful iteration of that kind of moviemaking. This is the story of a father trying to protect his daughters and the strongest part of the film is the middle portion in which the family is stranded inside of a jeep while the lion stalks outside and occasionally attacks. The action scenes are done well. Filmmaker Baltasar Kormákur previously directed other mid-budget action and survival films such as Contraband and 2 Guns but with Beast Kormákur turns up the intensity. The filmmakers capture the claustrophobia of being trapped inside a vehicle as well as the ferocity of the lion’s attack. There are some very frightening scenes in which the human beings must venture outside the vehicle and the tension is drawn out terrifically. The actors sell the illusion that they are under siege by a lion and their fear is contagious. The special effects are also quite good. The lion appears to be rendered through digital technology but the effect is very convincing.
What Doesn’t: The killer lion of Beast is given a very human motivation. The lion’s pride was slaughtered by poachers and now he’s killing any human being in the area. This is not credible lion behavior. However, that kind of fictional invention is fairly standard for killer animal movies. The technical qualities of Beast are mostly very good but the night scenes tend to look murky in a way is more confusing than scary. The movie takes time to establish a backstory between the father and his daughters. The parents had divorced and the mother died of cancer, leading to a rift between the father and his children. The early dramatic scenes are off. Part of the problem is the direction. These scenes are not staged and shot in a way that takes advantage of the performances or makes an emotional impact. The performances in these early scenes aren’t quite convincing either. The father and his daughters don’t feel much like an authentic family with a history. However, the rapport between the actors improves as the stakes get higher.
Bottom Line: Beast is an entertaining thriller. Some of the dramatic aspects of the movie aren’t as strong but the core attraction of this man-versus-animal story delivers exactly what viewers look for in a movie like this.
Episode: #915 (August 28, 2022)