The newest thriller-adventure survival film, Beast, with the tagline ‘Fight for Family’ released worldwide recently. The story follows a grieving family on holiday, stranded at a South African game reserve, struggling to survive, with a predator on the hunt. Beast features a mildly entertaining plot that is predictable but manages to keep viewers engaged.
The film stars Idris Elba as Dr. Nate Samuels, Leah Jeffries as his young daughter Norah Samuels, Iyana Halley as the older sister Meredith Samuels, and Sharlto Copley as Martin Battles, an old family friend.
The movie centres around Dr. Nate Samuels, who after the recent death of his wife, is grief-stricken and tries to cope with her loss. Samuels has two strong willed teenage daughters, who he takes to a South African game reserve on holiday, which is explained as a place their late mother loved, that is now managed by a wildlife biologist who is their good old family friend Martin Battles, a man who is had a special bond with the lions pride nearby. The core story by Jaime Primak Sullivan, begins to take shape when, the family’s holiday at the game reserve, turns into a horrific nightmare, when they become stranded with no signal and no way out of the jungle, with a bloodthirsty lion stalking them every step of the way.
The film features calm pacing as it takes the time to introduce the characters, and then dives straight into the plot, which is straight forward, with little to no depth. The plot driven by the concept, that a lion whose pride has been killed by poachers, is set on revenge. It is the popular concept of the hunter becoming the hunted. Sadly, for Samuels, his daughters, and his friend, this becomes a classic fight for survival, for there is a lion on the lose determined to hunt down humans in his territory.
The story needed more depth with stronger characters and more attention to detail, but instead, in some parts of the film the execution feels rushed. The overall visual layout, including the dialogue, at times feels like it was filmed in the ‘90s. More focus on the finer details may have helped make the story feel more real, but this looks like a missed opportunity. Starting with when they arrive in Africa, where Samuels’ daughter complains about how hot it is, the characters at the time look like they are dressed for winter, with jumpers and layers of cloths, instead of dressing more appropriately for the scene.
Elba’s role as doctor Nate, a simple father, who medically helps his friend and treats his daughter, raises the question about not doing enough homework to play the role of a medical professional, to make the role feel real. Not to mention that he challenges a lion to a fight with what looks like a small knife, even though he struggled to get a clear shot with a hunting rifle.
In the real world, if someone were to walk into a village, and see that they had been attacked, they would not automatically assume that it was done by a lion, and later go into the jungle alone, with just a rifle to find the lion, but in this film, that is exactly what happens. There is even a scene, where a character sees a crocodile in the water, and guess where he steps, straight into the water. Some things in this film are questionable and can make fans of Elba wonder why he was in a role that does not have depth, but then again, his acting skills felt like the highlight of the film.
The 93-minute film by director Baltasar Kormakur, was produced by Will Packer, James Lopez, and Jaime Primak Sullivan, working in collaboration with production companies RVK Studios and Will Packer Productions, with a budget of US$ 36 million. The film was geared for financial success after easily earning over 27 million at the worldwide box-office ahead of its opening weekend. Meanwhile, Beast received plenty of media attention and publicity from fans and critics alike, while receiving mixed reviews, with 68 per cent featured on Rotten Tomatoes, 54 per cent on Metacritic and 5.9/10 on IMDb.
Viewers will see that it is a very unrealistic film with a lot of flaws, thus rightfully being criticized by many, but if you want to see Elba in an unfamiliar environment, briefly fight a lion, then this is the movie for you. It’s his lead performance that carries the film through.
By Nirupa Mohan Dore