Written by: Adam Vaughn | August 18th, 2022
Beast (Baltasar Kormákur, 2022) 2½ out of 4 stars.
Yet another creature-feature arrives on the big screen this summer as director Baltasar Kormákur (Adrift) delivers a thrilling adventure about a father willing to do anything to protect his daughters from certain death. Beast takes the viewer into the heart of an African adventure, as Dr. Nate Samuels (Idris Elba, The Dark Tower), shortly after his ex-wife’s passing, takes his two daughters Meredith and Nora (Iyana Halley and Leah Jeffries) to what is supposed to be a relaxing vacation spot to see some vivid wildlife up close, led by the kids’ uncle Martin (Sharlto Copley, Ted K). But when a rogue lion goes on a vicious rampage, Samuels and his family must survive a deadly night in the savannah against the plain’s ruthless king of the jungle.
Kormákur certainly falls in line with delivering in-your-face sequences of a ravenous lion’s teeth jumping out at the screen, and the various scenes of VFX (visual effects) and art direction certainly sell a remote, desolate corner of Africa. Beast is at its best when it is showing man vs. nature, pitting a fairly realistic and believable lion against Elba and the main characters of the story. Filled with just enough, but not overly excessive, amounts of gore, tense moments, and even bits of humor at times, the film has no problem delivering a riveting experience for summer-blockbuster moviegoers. I also want to commend Halley and Jeffries for giving suburb performances alongside Elba, who does an excellent job leading the narrative along.
As a work of cinema, much is left to be desired, however. Beast tends to breeze over the backstories for Elba, Halley, and Jeffries, loosely establishing their late mother/ex-wife’s background, and utilizing cheap and awkward dream sequences of her throughout the film. Certain themes, such as poaching being a harmful element in the savannah, are thrown to the wayside, and are there strictly to add a splash of extra tension for a fleeting moment. While the film delivers its share of excitement, it does so at the expense of believability and suspension of disbelief. And of course, the conclusion where Elba gets into a fist fight with one of Africa’s deadliest predators, while fun to enjoy, can’t help but leave the viewer confounded.
At the end of the day, Beast has immense potential to explore its deeper themes about African climate and social issues, and there is certainly substance present in Kormákur’s riveting narrative. Unfortunately, most of what is waiting for viewers in Beast is simply a bare-bones creature-flick, hardly exploring any deeper meaning and riding solely on spectacle. While fans of the summer blockbuster will get their thrills and enjoyment out of this film, moviegoers looking for a well-rounded experience will find Beast falls short of delivering anything more.