More than the shark, the killer whale should be brought up, without prejudice to the savannah instead of the oceans. Baltasar Kormàkur does what he can, and he doesn’t even do badly, even if the anxiety of the content weighs down what should have been a thoughtless b-movie.
Notwithstanding that we all know (and no one has implied) that Baltasar Kormákur it is not and will never be remotely comparable to Steven Spielberg, there is another basic error common to the many who have written about Beast describing it as a Shark set in the savannah instead of the ocean.
Because, if we really have to draw out comparisons between the various survival thrillers or men vs. beasts that crowded the history of cinema then the title to quote is The killer whale, the film with Richard Harris strongly wanted by Dino De Laurentiis after the extraordinary success of Spielberg’s film (you seem to hear him yelling: “find me a fish more dangerous than a shark!”).
The lion (in CGI) who takes it out on Idris Elba and family in this film, in fact, does not act out of a feral or alimentary instinct, because it is a death machine perfected by nature. No. He acts as he does, trying to take out all the human beings he encounters, with unusual cunning and unusual behavior, in revenge. Like the killer whale from that movie. Revenge against those (poachers specifically, humans in general) who killed his pack and family.
TO Elba instead it was cancer that killed his wife, and further undermined an already complicated relationship with his two daughters. A relationship that he tries to recover by flying from New York to the heart of South Africa, in the village where the woman was born, and where a mutual friend still lives who has dedicated his life to the study and care of wild animals.
One who, at the beginning of the film, plays with the lions, and explains in words that rule on the territoriality of these majestic felines which, without surprise, will be fundamental for the outcome of the story, when Elba in practice he will find himself fighting with his bare hands, almost succumbing (but resisting too much) against the pissed-off lion that has hunted him throughout the film.
Parallelisms of family, metaphors on the protection of the territory, vague hints of African animism declined with bad Western taste: it seems that today the B-movie – because with Beast we are talking about this, a declared B-movie to munch on popcorn – cannot be done without trying to ennoble it with content.
When he just does what he has to do, or what he should do, Beast isn’t terribly bad either.
Yes, ok, the CGI, but Kormákur, who Spielberg is not but is an honest craftsman, he knows how to play with suspense and adrenaline, how to move the camera and choreograph the action scenes. And if certain things of Beast I’m a little silly, hey, come on: it’s part of the game.
Least of some sentimentalist pistolotti, certain tirades of characters who stir awkwardly refusing a two-dimensionality that would have benefited them, certain pauses that are too long and too full of dialogues that are anything but brilliant. And in the end, all in all, you almost cheer for the lion more than for many of its bipedal and stubborn prey.
Fans of the genre, and of lions, might like to compare this Beast with the Prey interpreted by Bridget Moynahanwith an almost analogous plot but without psychologisms and background, or the more recent ones Rogue with Megan Fox And Primal with Nicolas Cage, also focused on felines. All three available on Amazon Prime Video.