Beast struts along as a solid creature feature, with Elba enduring this lion rampage movie.
Published on February 17, 2023
Rating 3.5 /5
There's an admirable simplicity to the thrills of Beast. As the posters and marketing have implied, the film can best be described as Idris Elba fighting a Lion. There's some decent staging to it all, but let's be honest. The highlight is watching Elba get up close and personal with a ferocious creature. On that level, this picture succeeds in its survival adventure.
Elba plays Dr. Nate Samuels, a man dealing with the recent death of his ex-wife and trying to be a better father to his two teenage daughters. He thinks a trip to the wilderness of South Africa would be a perfect opportunity to reconnect, especially with his old friend Martin Battles (Sharlto Copley) being their guide. Martin was not only the one who introduced Nate to his wife but now acts as an anti-poacher for the wildlife of South Africa. The trip is rocky for Nate as his daughters are still bitter about not being present for mom’s death. Some peace comes when Martin showcases the wonders of Africa’s many fantastic creatures.
Trouble arises when a rogue lion ravages a village. After losing his entire pack to poachers, an injured and enraged lion seeks revenge on any who crosses his path. When Nate, Martin, and the two daughters investigate the massacre, they soon run from this violent lion. As the terror intensifies, this leads to them being trapped in a car, cornered in a swamp, and trying not to become gunned down by poachers. Of course, Nate will also try to spring into action for his daughters when the chips are down, being more present and willing to take on this bloodthirsty animal.
That’s about all there is to this picture plot-wise. Some mild nightmares of the past come to haunt Nate, but, for the most part, the film is exclusively about trying to outsmart, outrun, and fight a lion. For being a creature feature, this is a picture where the crucial element has to be the visual effects. Thankfully, they succeed at constantly keeping the audience engaged and never taking them out of the experience. There’s rarely a moment where there isn’t a fear of the lion mauling and munching on these innocent folks, nor is there some goofy bit of wonky CGI or laughable practical effects. After all, if you want to have a film where Elba goes toe-to-paw with a lion while wielding a knife and getting his body bloodied with scratches and bites, you can’t half-ass those shots. The good news is that they are brutal and exciting, satiating what most audiences will be coming to this picture for.
All that being said, the film does use its effects for a grander nature of crafting an intense adventure. If you’ve got a stunningly rendered lion for some action scenes, you might as well showcase him getting caught in explosions and tumbling down cliffs. These moments are a wee bit over the top, but they keep the blood pumping and are never dull. Whatever absurdity in the visuals is thankfully kept with a tongue in cheek as Elba’s performance is earnest and robust, rarely relying on melodrama to carry this narrative.
Beast struts along as a solid creature feature, with Elba enduring this lion rampage movie. It never gets too goofy or shmaltzy as it realizes there are enough thrills in the African survival tale of man versus lion. It’s a B-movie premise with A-level technique and acting, making for a satisfying dose of adventure.
Mark has been a professional film critic for over five years and a film lover all his life.