‘Beckett’ is a mystery thriller helmed by Italian director and screenwriter Ferdinando Cito Filomarino from a screenplay by Kevin A. Rice. This flick marks Filomarino’s debut into American cinema and is produced by constant collaborator Luca Guadagnino. ‘Beckett’ is edged towards one of those 70s paranoid thrillers where the hero finds himself stuck in between a rock and a hard place surrounded by tons of people he can’t trust. Classics like ‘The Parallax View’ and ‘Three Days of the Condor’ immediately spring to mind as all-time favorites in this genre.
‘Beckett’ was originally titled ‘Born to Be Murdered’ and developed for a theatrical release before Netflix picked it up last year as part of its plan to release new movies every month and changed the title to the current one. This feature premiered during the 74th edition of Locarno Festival on August 4th before being released on streaming on 13th August. The film was developed as a star vehicle for fast rising actor John David Washington who takes the lead as the title character alongside svelte Swedish beauty and ‘Tomb Raider’ actress Alicia Vikander with supporting roles by Boyd Holbrook and Vicky Krieps.
Set in Greece during a period of political tension, the feature tells the story of an ordinary man named Beckett, played by John David Washington and his girlfriend April a role by Alicia Vikander who jet off to beautiful Greece for vacation during the off peak season. However their holiday coincides with the Greece political period and with a rally planned near their hotel and political unrests expected to break out because the son of a liberal politician has been kidnapped, the lovely couple decides to swap their city stay for a more peaceful rural alternative.
However, during the long drive upcountry, Beckett falls asleep on the wheel and their rented car crashes into a house presumed to be inhabited. Unfortunately, April dies on the spot while Beckett makes it out with a broken arm. However not before he sees something he wasn’t supposed to which he unknowingly reveals to the police officer who interrogates him at the hospital putting a target on his back. Beckett becomes the focus of a manhunt and he is forced to flee across the country to the United States Embassy in search of the sanctuary as his pursuers close in on him.
Fortunately, he finds good Samaritans along the way and after a series or painful encounters, with stab wounds and a few bullets inside his body, he manages to survive his fateful destiny of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, kills his tormentors and becomes the unexpected hero by rescuing the kidnapped boy.
When the movie begins it’s kind of slow with the leads in bed giving off the vibes of a romantic flick rather than an action thriller. The chemistry between the two is not quite there as they spent time analyzing other couples in a park and creating backstories about them which sort of leaves fans with more questions than answers. Sadly Vikander’s character is killed off just when the audience starts to understand the kind of bond the presumed lovebirds share. Immediately after this tragic accident, hell breaks loose when Beckett’s rescuers come for his head and the idea of an ordinary layman with no combat skills fighting for dear life, the chases, high jumps and the physical tackles manage to keep viewers at the edge of their seats as our protagonist slips through their fingers by sheer luck.
The script has plenty of holes within it and lacks the depth associated with a great mystery thriller, though the fact that the viewer is in as much dark as the lead regarding why he is being hunted down keeps many interested. This is of course heightened by the use of the Greek language which goes untranslated leaving audiences as confused as Beckett himself. Things however start getting clearer when Beckett meets an activist played by Vicky Krieps who helps him out and sheds more light on the situation and explains the possible reason why he is a wanted man.
Ferdinando tries to compensate for the rather flat dialogue by tapping into the audiences paranoid fantasy about foreign travel, which places the protagonist miles away from the constitution that can safeguard him, with the people who should help keep him safe already on the payroll of the corrupt elite, and to make matters worse he sticks out like a sore thumb being a person of color in a white populated country. The cinematography is a beautiful 70s vibe with minimal but on point costumes and the score, which are good though they sometimes fall short where it is immensely needed.
Washington is quite a decent actor still in the process of bettering himself though his performance in this thriller really doesn’t exude that wow factor leaving a lot of anticipation unsatisfied.
Being a mystery action thriller, one would have expected the action scenes to be more intense and thrilling enough to get the adrenaline pumping. The creation of suspense and tension didn’t build up much to look forward to and considering the fact that the movie ended abruptly with no direction on what happened to poor Beckett, in the end, is quite disappointing. The audience, however, closely accompanies the lead on his terrifying journey as he tries to grapple with grief, deals with physical pain, is betrayed by the same people who should protect him and his bravery and determination to save the kidnapped boy despite his own afflictions is quite admirable.
At the end of the day one must admit that John David Washington’s delivery is not as masterful as that in his break out role ‘BlacKkKlansman’ from Spike Lee however he was just okay considering there is nothing much he would have done to salvage a shallow storyline. The movie is however worth the watch and available to stream on Netflix, one more thing, one will get to enjoy the gorgeous landscapes of Greece.