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.
Man vs beast has been a staple of cinema right back as far as movies like ‘King Kong’ and ‘Godzilla’, with sharks (‘Jaws’), bears (‘The Revenant’) and even those “motherf***ing snakes on this motherf***ing plane” (‘Snakes on a Plane’) getting their turn to torment their human prey. In ‘Beast’ it is the turn of the lion to torment our protagonists, led gamely here by Idris Elba as Dr. Nate Daniels, who is on a South African game reserve with his two young daughters and an old friend who now lives out in the wild. ‘Beast’ is a movie that does exactly what you expect it to do, and it’s the kind of throwaway escapism that does very well out of cinema loyalty cards like Cineworld’s Unlimited (my one) or Odeon’s Limitless card. That is to say that I probably wouldn’t have paid for this separately, but I enjoyed checking it out all the same.
The movie centres on Nate and his daughters trip to visit his old friend Martin (Sharlto Copley), who has promised to take the family out on the game reserve. We learn that Nate’s wife was a keen wildlife photographer who had tragically passed away, and this trip was in part an attempt to reconnect with his daughters who he’d grown distant from. After some cute initial encounters, things quickly go awry when they come upon a village that appears to have been ravaged by an unseen menace, and it doesn’t take long for ‘Beast’ to introduce us to the rogue lion that has been killing any human unfortunate enough to cross its path. I quite liked the economy of how quickly we get into the action, with Icelandic director Baltasar Kormákur perhaps recognising that the audience is here for the lion fights and not for the teary family drama.
Idris Elba’s career hasn’t quite hit the stratosphere as promised by his TV work in ‘The Wire’ and ‘Luther’, but he’s a solid leading man and he does his best to battle through some of the clunkier narrative elements (the dead wife and the trip to reconnect with his kids), as well as the deadly lion on the prowl. The social commentary about poachers leading the kindly lion down a dark path never feels fully developed and I felt ‘Beast’ struggled anytime it tried to be anything more than a simple survival thriller. Like many films of its type it relies on characters making silly decisions and it does lead to a human v lion fight that stretches on too long to be even remotely believable, but for the most part ‘Beast’ does deliver the suspense it promises and Kormákur and Elba have delivered an enjoyable, if disposable thriller.
Directed By: Baltasar Kormákur
Starring: Idris Elba, Sharlto Copley, Iyana Halley and Leah Sava Jeffries