Synopsis – Following a tragic car accident in Greece, Beckett, an American tourist, finds himself at the center of a dangerous political conspiracy and on the run for his life.
My Take – Wrong-man stories usually work because the subject of the manhunt is usually an average person who does not possess any kind of super evasive skills or resources and is basing every step on his survival instincts. Mostly they are not even sure if they understand why and how they got sucked into that situation.
Here, Kevin A. Rice’s script and Italian director Ferdinando Cito Filomarino’s sophomore film and English language debut, which is listed as Netflix‘s number one film as of this writing, follows in the footsteps of those similar wrong-man films and draws heavy inspiration from some of the best in the sub-genre, trying really hard to be a throwback action thriller similar to what audiences used to enjoy on a yearly basis. And with a solid star cast attached, one would immediately expect a winner.
Unfortunately, it fails to live up to its promise as it backed by a lackluster story and blandly underwritten themes, but most importantly lacks the urgency required to keep it engaging.
The film lists Luca Guadagnino as its producer, the Italian director known for his acclaimed films like A Bigger Splash (2015), Call Me by Your Name (2017) and Suspiria (2018), which probably explains the caliber of the cast attached and the involvement of Academy Award-winning composer Ryuichi Sakamoto, who delivers a haunting score, while the rest of the film is unable to outrun its shortcomings.
The story follows Beckett (John David Washington), an American on an intimate vacation in Greece with his girlfriend April Hanson (Alicia Vikander), who upon hearing rumors about an upcoming political protest near their hotel chooses to move to a different, quieter resort in the mountains. Unfortunately, on the drive there, at the middle of the night, Beckett falls asleep behind the steering, leading to their car crashing into a house.
While Beckett emerges from the crash with a broken arm, April does not survive. And when Beckett mentions about seeing a red haired boy at the supposedly abandoned crash site to a police officer (Panos Koronis) at the hospital, he immediately finds himself a target of people chasing and shooting at him. Unsure about what is happening Beckett realizes that getting to the U.S. Embassy in Athens by any means possible is the only thing which is going to keep him alive.
While the plot has all the potential to be interesting, it is not executed in an entertaining way and remains poorly paced throughout. Writer Rice’s script feels underdeveloped especially when it tries to balance Beckett’s mourning with his fight for survival. At every turn, he cries at the thought of his dead girlfriend. But the film barely spends setup time with either of them, save for their fleeting sightseeing. And Beckett doesn’t share any memories about her to let viewers in on his loss. On top of that, the stakes are far too predictable.
Even when Beckett is running through mountainous terrain while bleeding from a gunshot wound, it’s hard to feel the panic or danger, or any real intensity to it all as the obstacles these assassins pose aren’t entirely attention-grabbing, because he seems to be working past them too easily.
But it is in the third act that the film completely goes off the rails as it co-opts anti-fascism as its mystery reveal. Not in the way that it actually seems to believe in those ideals, however. More in the sense that they’re taking a popular topic of the political moment to artificially attach weight to a lifeless dud.
And the more the film reveals about these menacing forces, the more it gets bogged down with uninteresting material about Greek politics and American diplomacy. With the climax hilarious embracing Beckett as a superhero who manages some highly, highly unlikely feats of physics that the Beckett of a day or so earlier would never have even attempted.
Running from one set piece or plot point to the next, John David Washington seems to be trying his best to make his character work, yet that sense of overwhelming stumbling never leaves. Making him look flat and plain. Alicia Vikander, although she’s only in the beginning of the film, gives as solid a performance as we can expect from her at this point.
Vicky Krieps is also let down by the material, while Boyd Holbrook, playing an agent at the US Embassy, offers a striking performance as a scumbag government official with some surprises up his sleeve. On the whole, ‘Beckett’ is a lifeless action thriller which is unable to engage with the film’s themes.
Directed – Ferdinando Cito Filomarino
Rated – R
Run Time – 110 minutes