One blockbuster to be released this year is Beast. The film follows Nate (Idris Elba), a doctor who takes his daughters, Meredith (Iyana Halley) and Norah (Leah Sava Jeffries) to South Africa, where his late wife grew up. Things soon take a turn for the worst when they arrive at a small village to find that everyone has been slain. The cause of this turns out to be a lion that has lost its pride at the hands of poachers and seeks out revenge on all humans. Nate has to fight against the lion to get him, his daughters and his friend, Martin (Sharlto Copley) to safety.
The film is directed by Baltasar Kormákur and written by Ryan Engle. Beast is a film that has a lot to say regarding the treatment of animals and the poaching industry. However, it doesn’t seem to lean into these discussions as much as it could do and relies on creature feature tropes. Choosing the South African reserve is an excellent choice as it provides a lot of beautiful scenery. However, it feels as though more could be done to show the tensions rising between Nate’s friend, Martin (Sharlto Copley) and the local poachers in the area. Instead, we are given small glimpses. The same can be said for the backstory regarding Nate’s late wife. There is a lot of dialogue regarding the grief that Nate and his daughters feel in relation to the loss, but this isn’t shown as much as it could have been. This being said, Beast is a lot of fun to watch and is perfect for those who want to dive into a good old creature feature.
Idris Elba leads the film as Nate, a man trying to reconnect with his daughters following the death of his wife. The tension between Nate and his daughters is evident, especially the fractured relationship with his oldest daughter, Meredith. Compared to other characters in the film, it doesn’t feel as though much development is given to the character. The film seems to be focused more on how the daughters handle the grief of losing their mum compared to Nate. In the end, it just feels as though any potential development for Nate is dashed as the lion ends up surviving all sorts of situations and just seems hellbent on killing him.
Sharlto Copley plays Nate’s friend, Martin, a South African who grew up with Nate’s wife. Copley’s performance is the most intriguing of the film as there is clearly a lot more to his character than meets the eye. Martin has a wall of photography taken by and featuring Nate’s wife. The closeness between Martin and Nate’s wife is evident and whether or not there was an element of unrequited love, it’s clear that the bond between them was strong. It is also hinted at throughout the film that Martin is an anti-poacher, someone who kills poacher to protect the reserve and the animals. The scenes in which this topic is discussed, including Nate’s confrontation with a group of poachers are among the best in the film and it would have been great if the writing delved into this more. Copley provides the film’s standout performance as there seems to be a lot of unexplained backstory that makes the development and actions interesting to watch.
Iyana Halley and Leah Sava Jeffries are both great as Meredith and Norah, respectively. They have a great rapport with each other with Meredith being quieter and more openly grief-stricken whereas Norah is extremely confident and is eager for the adventure, albeit without any signal or WiFi. Again, the writing doesn’t provide a lot in terms of characterisation and growth, but Halley and Jeffries both make do with what they have, bouncing off one another brilliantly.
The cinematography by Philippe Rousselot takes advantage of the South African scenery. The way in which Rousselot captures the film feels as though there are long and relentless takes, especially during the scenes of conflict. We are immediately thrown into the conflict between man and nature from the opening scene. The constant movement and relentlessness of the camerawork makes the audience feel immersed in the experience which could be overwhelming at times. However, scenes such as the confrontation with the poachers are shot brilliantly as the darkness means we are restricted from seeing every person, meaning that the unexpected could occur.
The music by Steven Price is among the highlights of the film. The soundtrack helps to build up the tension in the film and at times feeds into the relentless of the cinematography. The titular track highlights the chase aspect of the film with the crescendo building throughout. The atmospheric “The Fire Is Still Hot” is quieter and provides an element of mystery as Martin and Nate try to figure out what has happened to the villagers when no one is there.
Beast is a film that touches on some interesting topics such as poaching and grief, but it does not delve into these as much as it could have. However, it is still fun to watch and provides good performances from its cast, especially Sharlto Copley as Martin. For those wanting to watch a simple creature feature that has a gorgeous backdrop, Beast is a great choice for you.
What did you think of Beast? Let me know in the comments below!
Beast is out in cinemas now!