Beast Movie Review
Beast Movie Review Metadata
You’re not going to Beast (2022) to see the lion, so let’s get that out of the way right now. Are all of the lions CGI? Well, duh. No one’s liability insurance is that comprehensive. Does the CGI take away from the experience? Are you referring to the experience of seeing Idris Elba on screen running, breathing hard, and looking vulnerable?
Nate (Idris Elba), in an attempt to reconcile with his daughters after the death of their mother, flies them to South Africa so they can reconnect with their mother’s village. Mare (Iyana Halley) and Norah (Leah Jeffries) hold an incredible amount of resentment towards Nate for separating from his wife, and in their minds, allowing her to succumb to cancer. The reality is more complicated than that but in the throes of grief, there is a lot of lashing out and it’s a thorny issue. Mare is a budding photographer following in her mother’s footsteps, and Norah is interested in the anti-poaching activities of South Africa. These are American teenagers suddenly separated from the Internet and their phones and it makes a tense situation worse.
They stay in the home of mutual friend, Martin (Sharlto Copley) a game warden who takes them out into the savannah to show them one pride of lions he’s trying to protect from the poachers. When they arrive at a nearby village, they discover a horrific scene of bodies and blood likely the work not of poachers but a huge animal. The group becomes trapped in a non-functioning UTE and at the mercy of a large lion who isn’t killing for food, but for revenge. Nate, Mare, Norah, and Martin need to survive until help can come along, but the Beast seems unwilling to give them the luxury of time.
Giant CGI Lion aside, for a claustrophobic creature feature, Beast is surprisingly solid. There are scenes of unexpected humor as the Beast dispatched the poachers with silent but fatal efficiency. Yes, Nate punches a lion in the face and everyone suffers survivable mauling wounds of one sort or another, but at the core is a family drama wrapped around grief and mistrust. For a movie starring a lion who’s smarter than the average bear, there is serious acting displayed by Iyana Halley and Lena Jeffries, who bring life and fire to roles that could easily become screaming contests. Both of their characters are immature when introduced, with Mare wearing her angst like funeral weeds, and Norah tilting the scales at shrill and juvenile. They’re both put through individual trials of courage and determination in the face of certain death, and each uses her brain to puzzle out the solution. We’re not given fainting damsels who need to be rescued, which is a delightful change of pace.
And yes, Idris Elba is in it. He plays a wonderful dad who realizes his faults and tries to do right by his children. He’s devoted to his dead wife and dreams of a time when he can apologize to her face-to-face for not being there. Plus, he fights a lion, so it’s a win all around.
I know, you already love him.
Truthfully, there’s not a lot to find wrong with Beast, and that includes the lion. In the screening I attended, more than a few audience members found the fighting real enough to literally scream out loud, so getting caught up in the action doesn’t seem to be a problem. It’s a solid story and at 93 minutes, you’re in and out in no time. The action gets a little gory and the subject matter of poaching, especially of lions is a hard one to watch. I don’t believe Beast intentionally has “A Message,” but if you come out of it wanting to learn about anti-poaching, the animals of Africa would probably thank you.
Beast (2022) is rated R for swears, scenes of poaching, poachers getting killed by animals, people getting mauled, people getting slashed, people bleeding a lot, dead bodies, and lion-on lion-violence.