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Beast (A Movie Review)

BEAST (2022)

Starring Idris Elba, Iyana Halley, Leah Sava Jeffries, Sharlto Copley, Mel Jarnson, Anzor Alem, Billy Gallagher, Dorian Hedgewood, Kate Grisley, Hudson Anne-Black, Damon Burtley, Robby MacIsaac and Travis Lemrick.

Screenplay by Ryan Engle.

Directed by Baltasar Kormákur.

Distributed by Universal Pictures. 93 minutes. Rated R.

There is a long history of movies in which the audience feels sympathy for the “monster” who is supposedly creating all of the mayhem and death. Going back to the original King Kong or Godzilla or tons of others, perhaps the creature is just misunderstood.

Take the regal (although sort of CGI looking) lion who is the title character and main antagonist in Beast. Yes, what he is doing is awful, and yes, he is killing random innocent civilians. However, he only “went rogue” (in the film’s words) when poachers massacred the rest of his entire pride while they were minding their own business in the wilds of South Africa. Yes, innocent people are also being punished for the killings as well as the actual poachers, but really, how is a lion supposed to know who is responsible and who is not?

I will leave it to smarter people than me on the subject to argue whether a lion would necessarily do that, suddenly become a crazed killing machine out of a sense of revenge. One character here – a local wildlife preservationist played by Sharlto Copley – claims that this kind of aggressive reaction is very abnormal for the big cats, and I have no particular reason to disbelieve him.

But like any other creature, there can always be someone that strays from the norm when pushed far enough.

Okay, off my soapbox, because the lion in Beast is not the protagonist. In fact, he is a very effective bogeyman haunting this taut and smart thriller. I’m just saying that the audience (and the filmmakers) understand that he has his reasons, for better or worse.

The actual hero is Dr. Nate Samuels (Idris Elba), a New York doctor and widower who is taking his daughters to experience the jungle homeland of their late mother. The trip is not only a way to remember their loved one, but also Dr. Daniels’ attempt to connect with his slightly estranged older daughter Meredith (Iyana Halley), who has not forgiven him for breaking up with their mother before she got sick.

They are the guests of the aforementioned wildlife preservationist, Martin Battles (Copley), who puts them up in a spectacular compound and gives them a tour of the gorgeous wildlife around them. That is until they stumble upon a local village where the entire population has been slaughtered, apparently by a lion. Quickly the four of them realize that that same lion is stalking them.

While other people pop in and out of the story periodically and briefly, essentially Beast is just about these four people and the lion who always seems to be lurking somewhere nearby.

Being a thriller, there are several times where the main characters – particularly Elba’s Dr. Samuels – do things that are probably not the wisest course of action. And, as noted before, a lot of things that the lion does don’t totally make sense for his breed, either.

However, Beast looks gorgeous and has enough sudden scares to make it an interesting variation on the standard horror flick.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2022 All rights reserved. Posted: August 19, 2022.

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