Beast is a straightforward survival thriller that doesn’t overstay its welcome. The story might not deserve the talent of Idris Elbra, but seeing him battle a lion on the big screen makes for a fun theatrical experience. Beast is similar to movies like Crawl, Burning Bright, and other survival films. It’s drenched in tension, has excellent pacing, and Elba delivers a strong performance. Beast does include some lackluster CGI and the writing can be unbearable at times, but this was an adequate man vs creature film.
These types of projects can be hit or miss, but Beast accomplished a lot in the 90 minutes it had to work with. After the hard-hitting opening, the film spends time letting the viewer grow attached to the characters. Not allowing itself to become a highlight reel of carnage, Beast gives viewers a reason to care for the characters before the lion is introduced. Directed by Baltasar Kormakur and written by Ryan Engle, Beast follows Nate Daniels (Elba), a newly widowed man traveling to South Africa with his two daughters, Norah and Meredith.
Elba is joined by Leah Jeffries, Iyana Halley, and Sharlto Copley for this thrilling adventure story. Elba steals the show in his role, which seems to have inspired his on-screen daughters because the trio has phenomenal chemistry. Nate is blaming himself for the recent loss, and his daughters are trying to process it as well. Nate’s struggles allow Elba to deliver a heartfelt monologue that highlights the guilt Nate lives with. While Beast delivers a formulaic story, it makes the character’s survival more significant by making them relatable. Still, Engle’s script relies heavily on stupid decision-making. Beast could have been 10 minutes shorter if the writing made the characters more intelligent.
Despite the nonsensical character decisions, the film manages to be an engaging delight from start to finish. It excels at letting suspense and tension carry the narrative, which leads to effective pacing as well. Although, once our main group becomes trapped in a vehicle, Beast does begin to drag. During this time, characters you’re expected to cheer on become tiresome. For instance, Meredith (Halley) references topics that won’t help them escape the lion at the most inconvenient moments. In an effort to express frustration at her dad, she nearly becomes unlikable.
Philippe Rousselot’s gorgeous cinematography is the perfect distraction from the useless jumpscares Beast decides to incorporate. Jumpscares are only effective when they are not formulaic and when it’s earned. The jumpscares presented in this movie are not earned but will make for an entertaining experience for someone. While the lion depicted is effective enough to spark terror, the CGI isn’t that great. Sadly, practical effects are becoming a thing of the past. As mentioned, performances are great overall, but Idris was consistently delivering a strong performance.
There are times when the acting feels like it’s undermining the tension Beast thrives in. Elba carrying the film saves it from any major downfalls, but those glimpses of poor acting are a small detriment. Kormakur’s direction is solid and he understands how to keep you on the edge of your seat. Beast only suffers from the lackluster CGI and its overreliance on poor decision-making. This movie probably would have gone straight to streaming if it didn’t feature Idris Elba.
Beast is a fast-paced survival film that keeps you on the edge for the vast majority of its runtime. This is an effective 90 minutes of engaging activities with a strong lead performance from Elba. Awful CGI aside, Beast was a solid addition to this genre of survival horror movies. If a sequel happens, I hope the lion returns with a new group of allies to assist in the carnage.