Idris Elba - Dr. Nate Daniels
Leah Sava Jeffries - Norah Daniels
Iyana Halley - Meredith Daniels
Sharlto Copley - Martin Battles
Genre - Horror/Thriller/Action/Adventure/Bad Animals
Running Time - 93 Minutes
A recently widowed man and his two teenage daughters travel to a game reserve in South Africa. However, their journey of healing soon turns into a fight for survival when a bloodthirsty lion starts to stalk them.
So this is my 1200th (!!!) review and I had planned to make it special by discussing some monumental horror film that would kick off the next 100 reviews. But with real life in the way and catching up on films that have been sitting in my queue for months, that plan went up in flames. Instead, I caught up with one of those “sitting-in-queue” films that I had planned on reviewing anyway last year, but I didn’t get to it since I felt the movie was made more for streaming purposes rather than a theatrical experience. And that movie is 2022’s BEAST.
In all honesty, BEAST isn’t a bad film to kick off the next 100 reviews. After all, I spent many years focusing on animal-run-amok movies during the Summer Season. Man versus beast flicks are my jam, and BEAST is also elevated by the presence of both Idris Elba and Sharlto Copley, two actors I enjoy watching. So I was pretty eager to check out both actors trying to take down an angry lion. And while BEAST doesn’t reinvent the wheel and is fairly predictable in every single beat of the film, it’s still a pretty good time and worthy of its animal-run-amok tropes.
Nate Daniels and his family are vacationing in South Africa as a way for Nate to reconnect with his estranged daughters after their mother passes away from cancer. Along with his best friend Martin, the foursome see the sights until they encounter a village littered with corpses due to the attack of an angry lion who lost its pride due to poachers. The lion targets the group and terrorizes them, making Nate fight back for survival for himself and his family.
Like I already mentioned, you’ll get nothing new in a film like BEAST. It’s pretty much your typical fish-out-of-water situation where a dangerous animal is terrorizing a location, while the main character tries to save the other characters from getting mauled by said animal due to their stupid actions. Nate and Martin are constantly on the proactive side of things, tending to people and even hunting down the lion to stop it so it won’t hurt anyone else. Unfortunately, Nate’s daughters have no real urgency and just react in ways that are frustrating to any viewer. When told to stay put inside their car, they’ll still wander off [sometimes even separately] to see what’s going on or to see if they can help, only distracting Nate and Martin. Or in one situation, they’ll use a walkie-talkie to speak with Nate as he’s looking for keys to an abandoned vehicle he could use to escape, not realizing that their voices through the speaker are only alerting the lion to their father’s location. And while one of the daughters is upset at Nate for how he handled his relationship with her mother before she tragically passed away, arguing with him and bringing up a rough past doesn’t help anyone in this kind of situation.
The daughters can be a bit annoying, but it’s understandable why they’re depicted like this. They’re still angry with their father. They’ve never been in a situation like this. And they’re only doing stupid things because they’re on flight-or-fight mode. Plus, it allows some character development and drama to play out, which will only keep the audience engaged.
Nate is also a flawed character, feeling guilt over how he handled his marriage with his late wife, while pushing his daughters away. And while his early attempts to reconnect with them prove to be in vain, as his daughters are pretty cold towards him, he soon earns their respect as he protects them from a man-eating lion. Nate’s heroism makes him a likable character, despite the mistakes he made in the past, which he easily admits to.
Martin is the archetypical local member of the group who knows the location very well and what they’re dealing with. He’s also kind to the local animals, especially the lions in the area who seem friendly with him, which makes him a target of poachers who want to hurt these animals. His anti-poach stance comes into play during the latter half of the movie, creating unnecessary conflict for the survivors as they’re being hunted down by a dangerous lion.
As for the lion itself, it plays out as your typical angry or rabid animal with a single-minded focus on attacking and killing anyone in its way. It’s angry at humans for what happened to its pride, making BEAST a revenge movie for the animal. But the lion is really just a catalyst to bring Nate and his family back together through this terrifying experience they’re sharing together. They’re able to have a common ground against a common enemy, which is what really drives the narrative towards its predictable conclusion.
I think the best part about BEAST is its visual presentation. The direction by Baltasar Kormakur plays up all the animal-run-amok tropes to perfection, building suspense and tension once the animal attacks begin. The quiet moments are done wonderfully, but when the action picks up, it’s definitely thrilling. And shout out to cinematographer Philippe Rousselot for creating a beautiful film. The South African location looks lovely with rich earthy colors [brown, yellow and orange]. And the shots of the lion, whether close up or lurking in the background as it plans its next move, really add to the moments in which the lion appears. I believe the lion was actually CGI for the most part and it’s some of the best CGI I’ve seen done for an animal-run-amok movie like this. It definitely looks believable, allowing one to take what they’re watching more seriously than they probably ought to.
The actors are really good as well. Idris Elba is always reliable and he does well as the lead, Nate Daniels, here. Elba convincingly plays a guilt-ridden father, a selfless hero for his daughters and best friend, and a total badass who stands up to a lion who has no qualms in mauling him. I read a lot of folks joking that Elba only got the job because The Rock probably turned the role down. All I’m gonna say is that Elba probably did this role more justice than The Rock could have dreamed of doing. Leah Sava Jeffries and Iyana Halley are very good as Nate’s daughters, playing scared believably. And Sharlto Copley is always nice to see and he brings a level of authenticity to his role of Martin.
THE FINAL HOWL
It doesn’t reinvent the wheel when it comes to animal-run-amok movies, but 2022’s BEAST still manages to be a fun time. The film follows every trope that one would expect from a movie like this. You get a fish-out-of-water situation for the survivors. You get an angry animal whose only intent is to hurt anyone standing in its way. You get characters who panic to the point where they do stupid things that could jeopardize their survival and the survival of others. And you get thrilling action and dramatic beats that bring people closer together due to a traumatic situation. It’s all been done before, but BEAST handles it the right way and doesn’t insult its audience in trying to be something that it isn’t.
The direction by Baltasar Kormakur is strong, slowly building suspense and tension while making the action sequences pretty thrilling when they do happen. And the beautiful cinematography by Philippe Rousselot highlights the great looking South African location, while making the CGI lion look super realistic to the point where I was questioning whether the animal was real or not. And the small cast gives the film credibility, especially Idris Elba in a strong starring role. If you happened to miss this one for whatever reason and you like animals terrorizing people for 90 minutes, then you could do a lot worse than BEAST.
(7 out of 10)