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MOVIE | Besides the thrills and action, this lion-hunts-man film has a surprising amount of pathos

Lauren Mulligan/Universal Pictures

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Rated R
S1 / V8 / L5*

Director Baltasar Kormákur signals his approach to Beast by ­putting one of the characters in a Jurassic Park T-shirt. In this movie, a lion is the enemy, not a dinosaur, but as in Jurassic Park, our heroes will spend much of the movie in the wilderness stuck inside a jeep with a vicious predator trying to get at them. Humanity’s hubris unleashed the carnage in Jurassic Park, and humans also ­create Beast’s ruthless killer—a lion that wants revenge against all humans for the poaching that killed his pride.

Idris Elba plays Dr. Nate Daniels, a recently widowed father who takes his two teenage daughters (Iyana Halley and Leah Jeffries) to see their mother’s homeland of South Africa. The trio heads to a game reserve to spend time with “Uncle Martin” (Sharlto Copley)—the guy who introduced Nate to his late wife. Martin, a manager at the game reserve, takes Nate and his daughters on a tour of the area, but their excursion turns into a nightmare when the rogue lion starts hunting them.

Beast is rated R for violence and bloody images, but the language is milder than many PG-13 movies. With its relatively tight 93-minute running time, this film doesn’t aspire to be an epic meditation on man versus nature. The first third introduces us to the characters, the second third builds suspense as they unknowingly head into danger, and the last third contains the jump scares and action sequences. But even in the third act, Kormákur gives the audience time to breathe. For example, he includes a long ­single-take scene that helps rebuild suspense by letting the camera stalk Nate and his daughters.

Besides the thrills and action, Beast has a surprising amount of pathos. Nate wasn’t there when his wife died, and he thinks he’s a failure as a father. One of his daughters thinks of him as a failure too. Despite Elba’s hulking size, he manages to convince us he’s emotionally broken, trying to redeem himself.

The movie’s not perfect, falling prey to some of the laziness often associated with the horror genre. Technology fails in a most unconvincing manner. Vehicles leave their occupants stranded. People decide to abandon safe places to go poking around in areas with low visibility in which a killer likely lurks. By the end, it becomes hard to suspend ­disbelief as Nate absorbs more and more abuse. And Elba’s Nate isn’t the only one. The poor CGI lion takes more punishment in pursuit of his prey than Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator.

Alas, we see the lion too often for him to be truly frightening—it’s the unseen danger that scares us the most. But it’s always nice to see a father in a movie play the hero and protect his children. Beast is good, but not great—entertaining, but forgettable.

*Ratings from kids-in-mind.com, with quantity of sexual (S), violent (V), and foul-language (L) content on a 0-10 scale, with 10 high

Collin Garbarino

Collin is WORLD’s arts and culture editor. He is a graduate of the World Journalism Institute, the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Louisiana State University and resides with his wife and four children in Sugar Land, Texas.



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