Life & Culture

Beast film review: Well-intentioned but confused thriller set in the heart of South Africa

Beast often feels too contrived and preposterously overblown


cert: 15 | ★★★✩✩

This adrenaline-infused survival thriller from Icelandic director Baltasar Kormákur stars Idris Elba (The Wire, Prometheus, Beasts of No Nation). Set in a South African game reserve, Beast charts a father’s struggle to save his daughters from certain death as he battles a powerful adversary.

South African actor Sharto Copley (District 9, Chappie), Leah Jeffries (Empire) and This Is Us alum Iyana Halley also star.

Recently widowed Dr Nate Samuels (Elba) and his teenage daughters, Meredith (Halley) and Norah (Jeffries), arrive at a remote South African game reserve for a short stay. Nate is here to see his old friend, Martin Battles (Copley), a biologist and reserve manager who introduced him to his late wife. During a drunken evening, Nate confides to Martin that the trip has been planned in order to reconnect with his daughters and to get over the guilt of being absent during their mother’s illness.

The next day, Martin, Nate and the girls decide to explore the reserve’s restricted areas. It soon transpires that things may not be as safe as they had been assured earlier that morning. Hunted by a massive lion intent on destroying all those in his path, the group must find a way to civilisation before it’s too late.

Meanwhile, as he battles to keep his family and his best friend alive, Nate is haunted by the past and the memory of the woman he loved and lost.

While well-intentioned, Beast often feels as if it isn’t too sure what kind of tone it should be striving for. Part nail-biting thriller, part soul-searching drama, the film is at its best when it explores personal trauma and family ties and at its worst in the all too frequent CGI-rendered action set pieces. There are two ideas here battling it out for our attention while failing to make a convincing argument for the film’s existence.

There are some great performances here, notably from Copley, but Beast often feels too contrived and preposterously overblown. In the end, the story should have relied more on the allegorical and symbolism of a man wrestling with his demons, than a fully-fledged CGI-enhanced animal.

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