‘Beast’ a good survival thriller
Think of a terrible family vacation. Odds are the worst thing that happens is a dull car ride, or some miserable squabbling. While those sound uncomfortable, it’s paradise compared to the Samuel’s South African holiday in Beast. For Idris Elba’s Dr Nate Samuels, all he wanted was to reconnect with his estranged daughters after the passing of their mother. Unfortunately, a vengeful lion with a penchant for human flesh interrupts their family bonding.
Before the running and the screaming, Beast hits the audience with plenty of oohs and aaahs. The views of the savannah are a sight to behold. In addition to the natural scenery, Beast shows off its visual fidelity with its creature effects. There’s a moment in which Sharlto Copley’s Martin pays a visit to a pride of lions he’s known since they were cubs. The lions not only look real, but everything about them feels real. Their movements, textures, the way they interact with the light and their environment. Movie magic.
In making Jaws, a litany of production woes resulted in a creature feature that merely hinted at its creature’s presence, rather than feature it. With Beast the visual effects allow for the creature to take centre stage, yet the film-makers apply a Jaws-like restraint to their monster. The film is at its most terrifying when there are no eyes on the lion, creating a sense of danger at any given moment.
That looming threat seemed to have been lost on the characters, who have a tendency to act inanely despite there being a man-eating brute roaming their surroundings. As senseless as they can be, the cast never lets you lose sight of their terror. As impressive an effect as the lion is, their performances go a long way towards maintaining the illusion.
Beast avoids a lot of the pitfalls of a survival thriller. Its characters have more depth than mere cannon fodder, making you invested in their staying alive. While it’s engaging material, the film’s family drama played out against the constant terror of a ferocious feline isn’t always a well-struck balance.
Beast has a great sense of direction. The film has a handful of continuous steady shots that ratchet up the tension. Inevitably the constant momentum puts you on edge, as you wait for the moment everything comes to a screeching halt. After a while, being on the edge of your seat gets a little numbing, and a handful of questionable character moments keep the film from reaching greater heights. Thankfully, Beast is just short enough to keep from running out of steam before the climax.
Rating: High Half Price