Beast Review: It’s Man versus angry massive Man-eating Lion

beast review

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Beast sees Idris Elba add survivalist to his impressive skillset as his dream family safari turns to a terrifying trip from hell

Man Vs Beast is a tale as old as time and on screens, there have been all manner of terrifying creatures we’ve had to take on. From dinosaurs to killer sharks to Alien bounty hunters. While most of these have leaned heavily towards fantasy creatures, ‘Beast’ decided to go in the opposite direction and bring an animal we are already familiar with, just a bit bigger and scarier than we are used to.

Idris Elba as Dr Nate Samuels in Beast
Idris Elba as Dr. Nate Samuels in Beast, directed by Baltasar Kormákur.

My main concern going into the film was being presented with an overgrown unrealistic monster lion that bore no resemblance to reality. My concerns were laid to rest after the ‘beast’ makes its first appearance and it thankfully looked just like a lion, albeit a wild eyed, crazed rabid lion. The CGI isn’t without fault but not enough to distract or pull me out of the scenes.

I have also made a personal decision to avoid getting bogged down in discussions around the quality of the special effects as so many movies these days, even bigger budget ones, seem to suffer CGI issues. As they are dealt with by external firms, I try to separate effects from the overall quality of films

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Beast is a survival thriller from director Baltasar Kormákur and sees Idris Elba play Doctor Nate Samuels. Following the recent loss of his wife, he is haunted by guilt regarding his absence during her illness. He is also facing the reality of now being the sole parent to two smart teenage girls, Norah and Meredith (Leah Jefferies and Lyana Halley), who are dealing with the loss of their mother in their own ways. Nate decides a trip to his wife’s village in South Africa would be the best place to begin some family healing and reconnect while also showing his girls where their mother grew up.

Lyana Halley and Leah Jeffries in 'Beast'
(from left) Meredith Samuels (Iyana Halley) and Norah Samuels (Leah Jeffries) in Beast, directed by Baltasar Kormákur.

They meet up with an old family friend, Martin (Sharlto Copley), who takes them for an exciting trip to the savanna to see real wildlife up close. While there, they encounter the killer lion, who, having suffered the loss of his entire pride to poachers, is intent on killing every human that enters that territory. Martin reveals this is unusual behaviour for lions, who typically hunt and kill just to eat. The rest of the film finds the family trying to survive this apex predator’s ‘terminator like’ focus. During this time, they confront some unspoken truths and deal with some of the anger and hurt they have been holding onto regarding their loss.

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I found ‘Beast’ to be an interesting and exciting survival thriller, with a few jump scares and a solid likable cast. The performances are more nuanced than over the top horror ‘screaming’ and while Nate’s transformation from doctor to survivalist may not be totally convincing, it’s not beyond belief that a dad in his position will go beyond his limits to protect his daughters. The music by award winning British composer Steven Price is well balanced, providing an effective compliment to the action. The soundtrack avoids current popular songs and instead ops for more traditional African music which fits perfectly.

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Beast utilises a lot of the silly tropes from within the genre, and you can’t help but roll your eyes when a child told to stay in the car doesn’t stay in the car, just to create drama. As mentioned earlier, the CGI isn’t without fault. some of the plot points are silly and the writing delivered us some ropey dialogue. But I enjoyed the movie, Idris Elba quietly commands the screen and holds proceedings together well.

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The Lion is an effective and terrifying adversary and once things get going, the underlying threat and tension remains till the end. The family being trapped leaves plenty of time to mend the bridges between Nate and his daughters, thus giving us the most dangerous family therapy session you’re likely to see. And as advertised in the trailers, the head-to-head between Idris and the killer Lion is vicious and brutal. And at 90mins, the movie never outstays its welcome. A light but solid family survival thriller.

Beast is showing at cinemas now

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