THEATRICAL REVIEW: Idris Elba battles a ferocious lion in enthralling Beast


August is typically seen as a dumping ground for new releases. Films put near the start of school semester are almost guaranteed to fail, and Beast is no exception.

Making only $11-million in its opening weekend, Beast is far from ferocious, and yet it may well end up one of the most underrated movies of 2022. It’s a superior Man-Vs.-Animal endeavour, but has more emotional depth than I could have anticipated.

It follows a father – consistently consumed by his work as a doctor – who takes his two teenage girls on a vacation to Africa following the death of their mother. The matriarch had roots in the country and Nate hopes his daughters can connect with the area.

His biggest battle, though, is with his children. His daughters Norah and Meredith aren’t over the passing of their mother, and the fact their father wasn’t around enough to help them through the situation.

Nate has his own guilt to carry, and he hopes the trip can bring the family close again. But when a safari day with family friend Martin lands them in a lion’s territory, they soon have to fight for their lives.

Idris Elba has seen an up-and-down career, from being touted as the next James Bond to critical and commercial flops Cats and The Dark Tower.

Make no mistake: With Beast, Elba proves once and for all that he has every bit of talent and screen presence it takes to be a leading A-list actor. He is magnetic in every frame.

Leah Jeffries and Iyana Halley play his daughters, with the latter producing a particularly layered performances. Following arcs in NBC’s This Is Us and Emmy-nominated Hulu show Abbott Elementary, she’s set to break out. Beast certainly helps her chances.

This is an intense, gripping film akin to 2019’s alligator film Crawl, which saw a $12-million opening in July of that year. Creature features are largely underrated in the film landscape, but can provide some fantastic popcorn entertainment.

Perhaps one of my favourite things about Beast – other than the magnificent Elba – is the inclusion of Sharlto Copley. The actor, of District 9 and The A-Team fame, is of South African descent, and is one of my favourite character performers.

Once primed for the big-time, Copley was nominated for Most Promising Performer by the Chicago Film Critics Association Awards for Neill Blomkamp’s Oscar-nominated film District 9. The star has worked steadily since, but this is one of the best roles he’s had in years.

He lends a great supporting performance to this film, a thriller boasting incredible special effects and a tense, disquieting atmosphere that pays off big-time.

What Beast manages to be is a movie that bares its teeth, while also being introspective. It gives an emotional core to its characters, and for that alone, it’s a cut above many films from this summer.

4/5 Stars


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