A few years ago, before the pandemic, a small-scale but deliciously tense thriller exceeded expectations to become one of the best of its year. That film was the electric and criminally underrated Crawl, in which a young woman must battle the elements and ravenous alligators to rescue herself and her father from the middle of a deadly hurricane. It breathed life into a wonderfully perverse subgenre, that of man-versus-beast. There’s something innately frightening about the elemental viciousness of a nature-strikes-back film – the knowledge that it could very well happen to you, perhaps, or the ultimate knowledge that nature doesn’t empathise, that the vulnerable human is ultimately just another meal.
August is usually a rough month both weather-wise and in terms of cinema releases. This month, at least, you can watch Idris Elba get into a fistfight with a murderous lion in the tense, brutally enjoyable survival thriller Beast.
While it doesn’t reach the giddy heights of its scaly predecessor, safari thriller Beast arrives at a perfect time – a quiet release month in the dead of a miserable winter, offering lean, bloody thrills that promise a good time, if not one that lingers long in the memory. The ever-reliable Idris Elba helms Beast, as a doctor who brings his two daughters to a small South African game reserve, where their since-deceased mother grew up in a nearby village. What starts as an innocent jaunt into the grasslands turns nightmarish when the family are pursued by a crazed, murderous lion, seeking revenge after poachers slaughter its pride.
As directed by Baltasar Kormákur, it’s a fleet, well-executed animal attack picture, delivering some satisfyingly brutal slayings and more than its fair share of jump scares. Joined by Sharlto Copley as Elba’s best friend and guide through the wilderness, the quartet of leads play well with each other, and there’s a likeable chemistry shared throughout despite a general lack of character development. It’s a film whose twists and turns are howlingly easy to predict – the presence of another pack of lions, a zippo lighter, an abandoned schoolhouse – but the film moves forward with such pace and efficiency that it’s easy to cast those aspersions aside, at least until the credits roll. The lion itself, meanwhile, is a well-realised digital creation – a creature most nightmarish as it slinks past our characters unseen and out-of-focus in the background, a near-demonic presence hellbent on simple, horrible carnage. It’s all patently ridiculous, but Beast, to its credit, isn’t especially interested in taking itself too seriously. You could do a lot worse in August than ninety minutes of seatrest-clenching thrills that are the nature of this Beast, an unfussy, adrenaline-pumping good time.
In cinemas now.
Movie title: Beast (Kormákur, 2022)
Movie description: August is usually a rough month both weather-wise and in terms of cinema releases. This month, at least, you can watch Idris Elba get into a fistfight with a murderous lion in the tense, brutally enjoyable survival thriller Beast.
Date published: August 25, 2022
Author: Ryan Engle, Jaime Primak Sullivan
Director(s): Baltasar Kormákur
Actor(s): Idris Elba, Sharlto Copley,
Genre: Adventure, Drama, Horror