Director: Baltasar Kormákur
Cast: Idris Elba, Sharlto Copley, Iyana Halley, Leah Sava Jeffries
Runtime: 1 hr 33 mins
Rating: NC16 (Some Violence & Disturbing Scenes)
Released By: UIP
Opening Day: 25 August 022
Synopsis: Idris Elba (Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw, The Suicide Squad) stars in a pulse-pounding new thriller about a father and his two teenage daughters who find themselves hunted by a massive rogue lion intent on proving that the savannah has but one apex predator. Elba plays Dr. Nate Daniels, a recently widowed husband who returns to South Africa, where he first met his wife, on a long-planned trip with their daughters to a game reserve managed by Martin Battles (Sharlto Copley, Russian Doll series, Maleficent), an old family friend and wildlife biologist. But what begins as a journey of healing jolts into a fearsome fight for survival when a lion, a survivor of blood-thirsty poachers who now sees all humans as the enemy, begins stalking them.
We have seen Idris Elba as a doctor stranded in a snowy mountain top in The Mountain Between Us struggling to find civilization with Kate Winslet. And now, Elba is again playing a suave doctor; only this time he is not romancing any top Hollywood actress in this survival thriller, but battling a savage, rouge lion.
When one of the characters is shown wearing a Jurassic Park tee shirt early into the 90 minutes flick, you know it’s a not-so-subtle hint on what to expect out of it. Clearly the message is about humans not being the apex predator and they need to fight their way out against a CGI lion instead of dinosaurs. Simple yet efficient.
Since he wasn’t there for his daughters, Meredith (Iyana Halley) and Norah (Leah Sava Jeffries) when his estranged wife died of cancer. Dr Nate (Elba) thinks it’s a great idea to bring them to a game reserve in South Africa for a vacation as it’s the birth place of his late wife. Thus, Nate meets up with his best friend, Martin (Sharlto Copley), the manager of the reserve who brought them to tour the reserve the next day. But hey it’s not Disney’s Animal Kingdom and the group encounters a lion hell-bent on killing anyone who dare venture into its territory.
The direction by Icelandic filmmaker Baltasar Kormákur (2 Guns, Everest) for the most part is competent. At least he genuinely knows how to assemble some good old tension out of an all too familiar script. There’s a well-staged sequence which marks the beast first appearance to torment the group and leaving them trapped in a Land Rover. The camera work and editing is fortunately impressive, making every thrill and chew coherent to the audiences.
With the script hardly making a pitstop, do expect the lion to make a comeback as night falls. Things go south quickly of course, and a group of seemingly ferocious poachers fall victim to the lion easily, although it’s too murky dark to really focus on what’s happening onscreen except listening intently to the beast’s growling.
Beast obviously is not a deep movie about family dynamics, fully fleshed characters or narrative. Nobody is even here for the lesson and metaphor on illegal poaching. The sisters' constant bickering and screaming is more of an irritation, while the character of Sharlto Copley is barley there to make much of a difference, except being the token friend role of the male lead. The occasional pop out of hazy imaging of Nate’s late wife proves it’s inconsequential as well.
That leaves Idris Elba and the convincing CGI lion courtesy of Framestone. So if you are purely here to watch Elba wrestling with a VFX creature with blood and bruises all over, we can say you won’t be disappointed. This is totally a dumb B-movie that offers plenty of suspense and jump scares.
(Man Vs Nature or Elba Vs Beast…either way it’s a passable thriller)
Review by Linus Tee