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Beast Review: Stripped-back thriller is a survivable experience

Meredith Samuels (Iyana Halley) and Martin Battles (Sharlto Copley) in Beast, directed by Baltasar Kormákur. Photo: © 2022 Universal Studios. All Rights Reserved.
Meredith Samuels (Iyana Halley) and Martin Battles (Sharlto Copley) in Beast, directed by Baltasar Kormákur. Photo: © 2022 Universal Studios. All Rights Reserved.

Less is definitely more when it comes to building suspense in the newest survival/thriller to hit theatres.

Drawing from the simplicity of Jaws and the scenic beauty of The Lion King, Universal’s Beast will satisfy audiences suffering from Marvel fatigue.

In an attempt to reconnect with his two estranged daughters, widower Dr Nate Samuels (played by Idris Elba) takes them on a trip to South Africa to visit the homeland of his late wife.

“Like the monster movies of old, Beast gives you exactly what it promises in the trailer with little exposition and fast-paced scenes.”

Meeting up with an old friend named Martin Battles (Played by Sharlto Copley from District 9), the wildlife biologist takes the family on a private tour of the reserve.

The tour turns deadly when Martin detours to a nearby village and discovers that everyone has been killed in a lion attack.

But this is no ordinary lion.

After having its entire pride gunned down by poachers, the aggrieved predator is out for revenge against any man, woman or child that it crosses.

When its sights are set on the fractured family, Nate and his daughters must band together if they are going to survive the slaughter in the savannah.

Director Baltasar Kormákur’s isn’t orginal in his film’s premise that pits man against man-eater, but it’s simple story and short run time makes it survivable.

Like the monster movies of old, Beast gives you exactly what it promises in the trailer with little exposition and fast-paced scenes.

“Elba brings heart to his role and makes his protagonist unique by allowing him to be vulnerable, both as a survivor and a father.”

It pays tribute to its predecessors, such as Jurrasic Park and Jaws, with its good use of jumpscares and suspense which makes for a few great sequences.

One of the successes of Kormákur is his use of the single-shot scene which was realised in the film 1917.

This technique works well with the survival/thriller genre as it draws the audience into the world of the protagonists and ultimately creates a deeply immersive experience.

Though many might find its bareness boring, the film’s simplicity is a good break from the convoluted chaos that Marvel and DC has been dishing out for the last decade.

Idris Elba as Nathan in Beast, directed by Baltasar Kormákur. Photo: © 2022 Universal Studios. All Rights Reserved.
Idris Elba as Nathan in Beast, directed by Baltasar Kormákur. Photo: © 2022 Universal Studios. All Rights Reserved.

Cinematographer Philippe Rousselot shoots some spectacular shots, as expected from a film set in the South African wilderness, especially when used with the director’s single-shot style.

There are some solid performances from the cast, particularly Leah Jeffries and Iyana Halley who give the story its emotion as the youngest and oldest daughters respectively.

Elba brings heart to his role and makes his protagonist unique by allowing him to be vulnerable, both as a survivor and a father.

“This technique works well with the survival/thriller genre as it draws the audience into the world of the protagonists and ultimately creates a deeply immersive experience.”

The lengths he goes to protect his children, particularly at the films climax, redeems his character from his contribution to the breakup of his family and his distance during his wife’s illness.

What Beast lacks, above all, is a satisfying ending to the saga.

Kormákur gets to the climax with little time left and so tries to wrap up the families survival, both physical and emotional, in a matter of minutes.

Beast is rated MA 15+ for strong injury detail and animal attacks and is currently showing in cinemas around the country.

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