A routine family vacation to the African savannah turns into a frightening adventure when a rogue lion goes on the run in Beast.
To say that this is a film that will have audiences sitting on the edge of their seat is not an understatement. When you have an apex predator going rogue, it means there are no shortage of jump scares. It’s only fitting that one of the daughters is seen wearing a Jurassic Park tank top because it’s right up there in the frightening adventure department.
Dr. Nate Samuels (Idris Elba) is recently widowed and returning to South Africa with his daughters, Meredith (Iyana Halley) and Norah (Leah Jeffries). They are staying at the very site where he met his wife so many years earlier. Accompanying them upon arrival is a longtime family friend, Martin Battles (Sharlto Copley). There’s already tension between Nate and his oldest as they arrive. This is because he was separated from his late wife and wasn’t there for his family until it was too late. Following the opening prologue, it takes a bit for the film to get going because the focus is on the family tensions. It’s only when Martin shows them the area that they come across a small but recently annihilated village. This leads them to investigate further and they learn that a lion is doing the killing.
It’s already bad enough that they’re fighting almost as soon as they arrive in South Africa. What happens when you throw the rogue lion into the mix? Will they be able to put their feelings in check in order to just get along and do what’s necessary to live? But as we’re looking at the film through the human need for survival, one must take time to think about the lions. This is certainly a message movie because poaching is wrong. It is the horrible behavior that creates rogue lions to begin with.
Lions don’t typically behave in this way, least of all male lions. Female lions do the hunting while the males protect the pride. The audience knows more than they do at this point in the film. In so many ways, this is an anti-poaching film. Because of the poachers, this lion sees all humans as a threat to its very survival. The fact that this lion is the only survivor of a recent attack shows this. They are in his territory know and he will do what he must to survive. Just look at how Sharlto Copley’s portrayal of Martin. There’s a strong difference in his behavior with the lions he raised as cubs and this rogue lion.
This is a film that goes for authenticity at its finest. If you’re wondering whether the lions are real, the answer is no. According to the film’s production notes, the film uses state-of-the-art visual effects to create the rogue lion. It’s right up there with The Lion King and The Jungle Book in this regard. Honestly, it’s rather impressive but actors would probably fear for their lives with an actual lion. The fact that they are filming on location in South Africa also serves to elevate the material. You could not make this as a green screen movie. As an audience, we can feel ourselves standing right there watching as things play out. The film’s editing plays into this perspective and yes, there are more jump scares for my liking as a result. You could not make this film in any other way.
Beast may have stunning visual effects but this is a film that comes with an anti-poaching message. When you respect and protect these animals, they respect you back. But when you invade their land, you’re going to get what’s coming. Did you learn absolutely nothing from watching six different Jurassic Park and Jurassic World movies? Stop poaching lions and let them live.
DIRECTOR: Baltasar Kormákur
SCREENWRITER: Ryan Engle
CAST: Idris Elba, Sharlto Copley, Iyana Halley, Leah Jeffries
Universal will release Beast in theaters on August 19, 2022. Grade: 3.5/5
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