You can’t blame an actor like Idris Elba for taking on a role like his in Beast. He gets to film a movie in the African Savannah. His character is a medical doctor. He gets to punch a ferocious lion, even though it’s just CGI. And he probably got a nice paycheck out of the deal.
Produced on a budget of $36 million and distributed through Universal Pictures, Elba probably walked away with a nice portion of the budget. Something like Beast seems odd it would be distributed through Universal and not one another studio. But it shows how the actor commands a presence in movies and a raging debate on whether or not he will be the next James Bond is warranted.
However, Beast is another one of those “When Animals Attack” movies. However, the lion isn’t really a bad guy. He’s just one pissed off feline who’s sick and tired of poachers and does something about it by making a meal out of them. And for that reason, there’s a clever way the filmmakers make sure the big bad lion gets his comeuppence in the finale without making the good humans look worse.
As for the plot, it’s best to describe as a cross between Cujo and The Ghost and The Darkness, except those no subplot about an extramarital affair. Dr. Nate Samuels (Elba) has arrived in the African wilderness with his two teenage daughters, Norah (Leah Sava Jefferies), the youngest and more sensitive, and Meredith (Iyana Halley) who is older and prefers to be called “Mare” now. She’s also got a chip on her shoulder against Nate because her mother died while they were separated.
They’ve arrived to spend time with good family friend “Uncle” Martin Battes (Sharlto Copley). This trip is supposed to be Nate’s chance to reconnect with his daughters and to get some support from Martin, who knew Nate’s mother as she grew up in the area. Nate tells Martin he’s struggling with guilt over how distant he was during the separation as his wife was dying. I’ll give the movie some credit for having Copley tone down his behavior in this movie to make him a more sympathetic ear. I read a review a few years back that Copley has basically acted like Ellis from Die Hard in all his movies. And I think Copley probably read it too. That’s why he’s more relaxed this time around.
As for Elba, he seems to have some way of playing the dad having to reach to two teeange daughters without making it soap opera. But a family drama isn’t what the audience came for. Martin takes them out on a tour and observe him having some frolicking time with some lions who are friendly. They then travel to a Tsongas community where they notice many of the residents and livestock have been seriously injured or dead from a rogue lion attack.
Martin tries to track the lion but is attacked, before the lion goes after Nate and his daughters trapping them in the Land Rover. And here’s where the movie kinda irks me because it involves Mare getting behind the wheel and driving the car right into a tree, disabling the vehicle. At least the car in Cujo was having mechanical problems. They are able to get Martin back to the safety of the vehicle but from here the movie falls into the horror trope of people being in a vehicle that they can’t get out of with little water. Nate assures them someone will come by but night falls and this give Nate and Mare some time to do some heart to heart.
The movie is a survivalist thriller that doesn’t shy away from the gore. There’s some speculation the lion turned rogue after his pride was killed by poachers. And the poachers will come back as Martin is anti-poaching. But this is all to really thin out the movie’s run time because even at an hour and a half, it seems like a stretch. And the whole thing with the daughters upset over the mother’s death soon gets resolved when you see Nate punching the tiger to save his life and their lives.
That being said, it’s a silly movie every now and again an actor like Elba has on his filmography in between more high profile movies and roles. If anything else, the movie should be a lesson to anyone who wants to big-game hunt.
What do you think? Please comment.