There are certain movies that can be sold with a simple sentence, and Beast is one of them: Idris Elba fights a Lion. A hulking terror of a lion that wants to avenge his lion pride after they were killed by poachers.
In many ways, Beast is a fairly average summer action movie but when you hear that basic premise, you can’t help but wanna check it out. It’s not the most original action film in the world but it has some good ideas, a solid cast, and is fun for what it is.
A Holiday in Africa
Dr. Nate Daniels (Idris Elba) takes a trip to a wildlife reserve managed by his old friend Martin Battles (Sharlto Copley) in Africa. He arrived with his two daughters Meredith (Iyana Halley) and Norah (Leah Sava Jeffries). He says he wants to show them their roots but he also wants to reconnect with them following the death of their recently passed mother.
The trip to Africa was supposed to be a time of healing, however, it quickly turns into a frantic fight for survival as the family encounters a rogue lion, whose sole purpose seems to be to hunt down every human and rip them to pieces. Nate must now overcome his fears to protect his daughters and himself.
Survival in Africa
With only four characters for the majority of the film, Beast is fairly direct for an action movie. The family hides from the Lion and tries to fight back where they can. The film doesn’t have too many big twists or melodramatic reveals in favor of just letting the premise naturally play up out, for the most part. It’s nothing that previous ‘dangerous animal’ movies haven’t done before and you can easily predict where the plot is going but at least it does the concept well and even has it has some solid atmosphere.
For example, there are numerous scenes with the family trapped in a jeep. They can be in there for up to 30 minutes with the Lion stalking them outside. It never feels that long though because of the genuinely good immersion. You feel their fear of being trapped in such a small space with the creature possibly being anywhere outside. It makes their dialogue and interactions far more intense.
Unfortunately, this great atmosphere is let down a bit by the ending which felt a little anticlimactic. I won’t spoil anything but the solution to the conflict incredibly felt forced with the film developing into an over-the-top action film that, while admittedly funny, completely takes you out of the more grounded tone the first three quarters were going for. The start and middle were great but I can’t help but feel let down by how ridiculous the ending got.
The Cast of Survivors
Idris Elba is one of the prime action stars in the movies nowadays and the Beast really allows him to flex his range. Rather than the more stoic and serious roles, Elba is known for, Nate starts the film as a down on his luck everyman, trying to patch his family back together. He does well at seeming vulnerable without overplaying it. When the Lion does attack, he maintains that vulnerability and fear but you can tell his paternal instinct is kicking, showing a man willing to face the worst of the savannah for his kids. It’s nothing particularly original, a father caring for his kids, but the execution and Elba’s charisma bring in a solid performance.
His two daughters Mer and Norah (Halley and Jeffries) likewise do a solid job. Both do a good job of expressing the fear and anxiety you’d expect from such young kids without it coming off as annoying. Mer in particular gets some cool moments actually trying to fight back and staying relatively calm in such a dire situation.
Martin Battles (Sharlto Copley) Nates’ longtime friend is also a welcome presence. He’s not super important but Copley and Elba have great chemistry together. You can tell there’s history between these two, that they’re best friends that instantly understand each other even after being apart for so long.
Last but not least is the lion. It’s pretty interesting how this CGI lion doesn’t talk yet still had way more personality than any of the lions in The Lion King Remake. You can feel the intensity of this beast. He’s far bigger than your regular big cat, with his bloody mouth, dark matted mane, and deep scars. He exudes a truly menacing presence that goes beyond simple nature. For this creature, hunting is personal, making it almost feel like the killer in a slasher movie.
Any time the Lion is on screen, the world freezes. The film does a great job of allowing the intimidation to set in as you wait for the attack. This was, unfortunately, let down a bit by the amount of jump scares in the film. They weren’t too frequent but recurring enough to be noticeable although I’ll some were actually decently placed.
Another nice aspect of the film is that it truly shows the beauty of Africa. It has nice long pannings shots of the savannah and the various animals that inhabit it. There’s truly a sense of awe and wonder given to the region.
This is then flipped on its head when these same types of shots are used to show how dangerous it is. The wide shots of the rivers, roads, and grasslands are used to show that the lion can be anywhere at strike at any time, and the film is all the more effective at drawing you in.
What helps with this is a great use of traditional African music which is used throughout the film. The choir chanting adds to the fear of the horror scenes and energizes the more heroic action scenes as well as gives the film more of a distinct personality.
Overall, Beast is an entertaining survival thriller with a couple of flaws. It’s not a very complex movie and doesn’t do much that you haven’t seen in other monster animal movies but its high-quality execution does give it an edge above the rest.
The highlight of the film is the Lion, who truly stands out as intimidating, creating a layer of effective vulnerability. Idris Elba likewise, shows a great amount of investment in making the grieving, troubled yet determined Dr. Nate Daniels believable and worth rooting for, even if he’s a character you’ve seen in many movies before and will likely see in many after.
While it’s not the most memorable of films, Beast’s intense atmosphere and solid acting will keep your attention throughout. It really just comes back to that premise, if you think the idea of Idris Elba taking on a killer lion sounds interesting, you’ll likely enjoy the film as well.
|Idris Elba turns in a great performance||The plot is predictable and doesn't do anything new|
|The lion is good antagonist and appropriately intimidating||The ending feels a little rushed|
|The atmosphere can be intense and gripping||Jump scares|
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