Beast (2022) Review!!

Synopsis – A father and his two teenage daughters find themselves hunted by a massive rogue lion intent on proving that the Savanna has but one apex predator.

My Take – Stories of man vs. animal aren’t new, but what separates them (widely) is the successful level of execution in creating the horror and suspense as the dominant species tries to make it to the top, both with skill and sheer determination. This new film sees a man trying to save his teenage daughters from a bloodthirsty lion.

While survival thrillers about man-eater lions peaked popularity with the release of The Ghost and The Darkness (1996), which gained cult status following its disappointing theatrical run, but with films like the Dutch horror Prey (2016) and the Megan Fox starrer Rogue (2020), failing to garner praise due to unconvincing story-lines or visual effects, the sub-genre has been finding it difficult to succeed.

Thankfully, such is not the case of this new survival thriller from director Baltasar Kormákur, who has his own share of experience in the genre, having directed Everest (2015) and Adrift (2018) and produced the Netflix film, Against the Ice (2022), who here working from a screenplay from Ryan Engle (Rampage, Non-Stop) and a story from Jaime Primak Sullivan (Breaking In), brings in all known clichés from survival thrillers, and works them in well enough to provide an engaging time at the cinema.

Executing its wild-animal-gone-rogue concept in just 93 minutes, here, the lion attacks are ferocious and provide a certain level of fun tension with numerous jump-scares, something many will find sufficient enough for its B movie premise. Sure, those who are looking for a bit more, are going to be left disappointed as the film is generally too predictable and simple to go down as a classic, and occasionally suffers from characters making absurd and ludicrous decisions.

Nevertheless, it does serve as a decent fun time that serves fans, both general and hyper imaginative, by allowing them to witness John Luther (arguably Idis Elba‘s most popular role) punching a giant, man-hunting lion.

The story follows Dr. Nate Daniels (Idris Elba), who following the recent death of ex-wife, brings his two daughters, Meredith (Iyana Halley) and Norah (Leah Sava Jeffries), to a South African Savannah, a place where their mother grew up. With the trip more than being a means for both feeling closer to their late mother, but also providing Nate a chance to reconnect with his daughters, especially since Mere is still harboring feelings of abandonment and resentment towards him, while Norah just wants to sensitively maintain peace.

Lodging up at Nate’s old friend Martin Battles (Sharlto Copley), a wildlife preservationist, who takes up the job to take them on a safari. But while things start off well, their fun vacation soon turns deadly, as the four find themselves stranded and hunted by a bloodthirsty lion that is hell-bent on killing any human crossing his path.

From here on the film becomes all about Nate protecting his daughters by any means necessary, wasting no time getting to its Eco-survivalist thrills. While the central conflict between the father and children sets the narrative down a predictable path, the survival element provides the tension and surprises, giving you the thrills, kills, and chills that a film like this should.

This is a creature feature at its core, and it never lets up the suspense and the excitement of its premise. It’s all about surviving the encounter by any means, building tension with the characters’ limited supplies and no way to radio for help.

It also helps that director Baltasar Kormákur is keen to do more than just point and shoot, and together with cinematographer Philippe Rousselot, he add a surprising finesse to straightforward action sequences. Using tracking shots to heighten the sense of urgency and wringing tension out of multiple harrowing encounters, human and lion alike. The amount of coordination and blocking that goes into a long take is on full display here, as the characters always feel like they’re alone in this hazardous environment.

And while the trailers suggested otherwise, the VFX lion is more than convincing, plus he is given an added edge by not being evil just for the sake of it. Instead, the lion hunting our protagonists is a traumatized victim of poachers in the film’s opening scene, who massacred his pride to sell them off as trophies. Now, he is simply butchering any human it crosses paths with, as it can’t distinguish between the good and bad.

What works against the film is the strange use of dream sequences, employed repeatedly without adding much to the story. Add to that the characters of Meredith and Norah, who are prone to making poor decisions befitting of a horror character that leaves you screaming in frustration.

Yes, some characters do stupid things in horror films all the time, just to get the audience to talk back to the screen, but this two are just excessive. Whenever Nate tells them to stay in the car, they don’t. They wander off at inopportune moments, knowing full well that the lion is out there biding his time. When their father is trying to silently evade his nemesis, his kids start blowing the damn Jeep horn and trying to engage him on a walkie talkie. Making us feel as if the two are secretly in cahoots with their predator.

Of course, most people watching the film are likely watching it for Idris Elba, who once again delivers a phenomenal performance. Here, Elba does a superb job in both portraying the grieving widow and squaring off against the lion; he’s never made to be some type of superhuman that gets a lucky swing, and his character takes a good beating in almost every encounter with the animal.

Sharlto Copley matches Elba in being surprisingly committed to the B-film premise, proving once why he is a criminally underrated actor. While Iyana Halley and Leah Sava Jeffries are decent enough considering their poorly written characters. On the whole, ‘Beast’ is a solid creature feature that doesn’t break any new ground but delivers ferocious fun and nail-biting thrills.

Directed – 

Starring – Idris Elba, Sharlto Copley, Leah Jeffries

Rated – R

Run Time – 93 minutes

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