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‘…Beast is passable Saturday night fare, but despite a lot of hard work on the technical side, this lion doesn’t make much of a roar…’

I’ve got something of a soft spot for director Baltasar Kormákur, who seems to have a knack for making impossible stories into workable films. I’d interviewed him circa 2013 for his film The Deep, which was a story of a man who survived six hours while suspended in freezing water after his fishing boat capsized. That’s not a particularly cinematic idea, but in Kormákur’s hards, and with a great assist from actor Ólafur Darri Ólafsson, The Deep launched the director into a populist career mixing Hollywood glitz with some Icelandic steel (Mark Wahlberg vehicles Contaband, 2 Guns).

Films like Everest and Adrift continued the human vs extremes-of-nature theme, so it’s easy to imagine how his latest venture Beast came to pass. Sky TV shill Idris Elba plays Nate Samuels, a widowed husband who takes his two daughters on safari with his old friend Martin Battles (Sharlto Copeley). The setting is a South African game reserve, and Nate and his family fall prey to a deadly lion that has been separated from its pack by the intervention of poachers. And that’s about as far as Beast goes; it’s 93 minute time is fairly packed with one long race and chase, followed by a climax in which Elba notably punches a CGI killer lion right on the nose.

Ryan Engle’s script ties itself in knots to point blame for the lion’s crazy-ass behaviour at the door of the poachers, who get fairly swiftly gobbled up by the lion without much time to establish exactly what’s wrong with poaching. That lack of any real moral complexity makes Beast a frustrating watch; while the film does an admirable job in seamlessly mixing the actors with the wildlife, there’s not much to do other than root for the heroes, who are presented with a number of lifelines whenever the plot demands their safe delivery from the big cat. Elba is personable, but the widower role tamps does his natural charm, and Nate seems rather dour until nature finds a way to liven things up.

Iyana Halley and Leah Sava Jeffries do well as the kids, and this is a slick, easy watch by any standards. But somehow it’s one of Kormákur’s lesser works; his earlier films had more depth that required, but Beast comes up short well before the CGI lion gets its come-uppance, with more comebacks that Freddy Kruger not helping a weak sauce ending. Beast is passable Saturday night fare, but despite a lot of hard work on the technical side, this lion doesn’t make much of a roar.


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    • I skipped it for ages, but the director lured me in. I should have known better…Cujo has ten times to the plot of this…

    • The Bear will always be fresh in your mind. It might also be the title of my memoir if I allow myself to be defined by my tussle with the worst kind of wildlife…

  1. I was thinking this might just be a real “maybe” until you mention Elba punching the lion in the face. Even I can’t accept the ridiculousness of that action…..

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