Action movies come in all shapes and forms. Thanks to the success of Jaws both on the big screen, and in later years, on TV re-runs, the movie industry turned to animal attacks as a way to replicate the success of the Steven Spielberg film and get good money out of it. However, with the passing of time, those movies became out of fashion. The depiction of animals as dangerous beings was a very harmful thing, and so movies turned to more human or supernatural threats.
This is the reason Beasts is such a strange movie. It feels like something that was made in the late eighties or early nineties. However, it takes the new advancements in film technology and film techniques to create something a lot more visceral than any of those movies from the past could have even imagined. The result is a film that isn’t flawless at all, but it entertains and goes straight to the point. “Beast” is all killer, no filler.
Beast is directed by Baltasar Kormákur and stars Idris Elba, Leah Jeffries, Iyana Halley, and Sharlto Copley. The film tells the stories of Nathan, a doctor, and his two daughters, Mare and Norah. The family has recently suffered the death of their mother, and they are grieving. To help with the healing, Nathan decides to go back to South Africa, the motherland of his wife. There they are met by an old friend, Martin, who takes them on a safari that ends up having deadly consequences.
Beast is a film that has no time to create characters or to create beautiful arcs where the characters learn things and everything concludes with a satisfying ending. Everything is pretty messy when it comes to its characters. All of them are presented at the beginning of the movie as fully formed individuals, and the movie forces them to change into better versions of themselves right at the last minute before the movie concludes.
Yes, the character work is messy, but the movie has many other strengths that make it an entertaining watch. One of those strengths is the simplicity of its plot. There are no McGuffins, mysteries, or ancient prophecies in this movie. It is all about Nathan’s relationship with her daughter and how they are going to escape from the claws of a very angry lion. This level of simplicity allows the director and the actors to focus on how the movie is presented and how the characters are portrayed.
When it comes to the presentation, Baltasar Kormákur directs the hell out of this movie. He chooses to create these really long scenes that are both real and constructed in editing to create this feeling of presence in the movie, as if we were there with the characters facing these terrible dangers. These long shots never feel gimmicky, as they do in other movies. Kormákur is not trying to imitate 1917, or any other movie like that, The shots don’t even attract attention to themselves; it is all about making us feel the danger on screen.
Besides the amazing camerawork and editing, the movie also has very solid visual effects. Of course, the movie uses animals for most of its action sequences, and putting real animals in these situations would be completely irresponsible. Because of it, the animals are created using CGI and the result is quite satisfactory. Especially when it comes to the main lion in the film, a giant beast that is both majestic and terrifying in its rage and intelligence. The visual effects really help to sell the situation at hand.
Idris Elba is a total movie star. It is kind of sad that his career hasn’t allowed him to star in bigger pictures than the ones he has at this point. But no matter if they are big or small, Elba always brings an incredible amount of charisma to each of his roles. In this case, taking the role of a grieving dad seems to be natural to him, and you really believe that this is a guy that will sacrifice everything in order to protect his daughters. He is not perfect at all, but it is because of that, that he makes for a great hero.
Jeffries, and Halley also fair really well in the film. Jeffries’ role as Mare is quite frustrating, though. She is a normal teen that is going through a lot of pain, but sometimes her reactions to some events in the film are quite annoying. This is not the case for Norah, who might be small, but she is a more intelligent character and has a couple of surprises under her belt. On the other hand, Copley is always a welcome presence in any movie. Copley’s role is small, but he makes the best of it.
Beast isn’t highbrow cinema at all. The movie knows the kind of film it is and then goes and tries to elevate it by coming up with really solid technical proficiency and great acting. The movie is just 90 minutes long, so it knows that it shouldn’t overstay its welcome. The ending might come off as a bit underwhelming thanks to its abrupt nature. However, the film is great entertainment and everybody should give it a chance when in the mood for a simple and straight-to-the-point kind of movie.