The last time I watched a movie about people trying to survive being eaten by a lion, we got Megan Fox’s Rouge….and nobody wants to remember Rouge. Immediately, one advantage “Beast” has over that is being entertaining at some intervals.
That being said, its other wounds aren’t easy to lick clean.
Baltasar Kormákur seems to have a knack for doing survival thrillers with an emphasis on nail-biting tension but his direction here comes off rather surreal. Lean but disposable, his direction is, at least, keen on pulling the Jaws effect and honing in on a fear factor…..that never REALLY kicks in. It’s a plus that he doesn’t do a lot to make a straightforward situation needlessly complicated but with the exception of a dream sequence, the fear factor is……almost absent.
Extended use of long takes with the camera gives both the environment a crowded semi-immersive illusion and the audience a means to keep up with the action without dozing off. Editing is solid throughout, spaciously dense yet unhinged atmosphere was consistent depending on the situation, the music is alright, nothing to really chirp on about and it lives up to its R-rating pretty damn well. The films pacing and runtime mitigate well together, proving it knows that it shouldn't overstay its welcome, the lions CG hits uncanny valley between really impressive and really REALLY unnerving and as expected, Idris Elba delivers an overly ambitious but convincing performance that barely carries the film, a performance much better than the film he’s apart of actually deserves.
What you expect out of the story is exactly what you’re going to get going in and out; it does not deviate from the norm at all. The tension is mostly artificial, the main character goes through the bare minimum required for character development and plot progression and a disarmingly straightforward script lacks the ambition that Crawl or even Prey molded together for complete investment. Some characters dive deep into the stupid pool and don’t come out, the script fails to hold any emotional weight when it needs to (it’s tacked on or forced regardless), dialogue is distracting and while the plot starts off fine enough, eventually, it pulls back it’s “layers” as an absurd and ludicrous production - one that generates laughter when they really shouldn't. Again, cliches and formulas don’t bother me as much as long as the execution is well done and/or meaningful but this movie pushes past authentic stakes and believability far too many times.
It almost knocked me out the movie completely and the rushed ending does not help matters.
On the surface it’s a survival movie, through and through but unlike Rogue, Beast felt more presentable suited to try and squeeze in a message about illegal poachers provoking wild animals to be violent against humans, disrupting the ecological balance between the two distinct creatures. The problem is movies like The Revenant and The Grey did that entire theme better; there’s hardly anything here. For a film that uses nature as a stand-in metaphor for us being our own worst enemies, it’s yet another story that only provides lip service to such potentially intriguing topics.
Despite having a simple story with accompanying clichés from survival thrillers and some problematic visual effects, it still managed to provide an entertaining enough movie that I can, at least, say…..it exists.