Beast movie: How far would a father go to protect his daughters from a vengeful and murderous lion in the South African savannah?
Beast is as much a story about the father who will go to any lengths to defend his children from threat and harm, and what happens when we switch the perspective and see how a patriarch may act when his family has been brutally murdered and taken away from him.
There are two protagonists in Beast, Idris Elba who plays Dr Nate Samuels and the ‘rogue 600lb Lion’ who is the ‘Beast’ in the film. For this writer, both their story arcs run concurrently in the film.
Like all well-written movie villains, the audience at times will empathise with the ‘Beast’. His whole ‘Pride’ was brutally wiped out by unscrupulous poachers, who we are told, will decapitate, and sell off lion teeth, skin and other parts to the highest bidder. This back story for why the ‘Beast’ is systematically hunting down and killing ‘man’ gives a plausible reason for his rampaging killing spree. The film rightly depicts the poachers as brutal and heartless and it’s a satisfying point in the film when they get their just desserts. Many will understand, though possibly not quite forgive the Beast’s actions.
Elba’s character Dr Nate Samuels is a recently widowed husband who returns to South Africa on a long-planned trip to a game reserve with his daughters. The family are still grieving the mother’s loss after she died from cancer, and they embarked on this trip to attempt to reconnect with the memories of her and to heal their now fractured relationship. But what begins as a journey of healing jolts into a fearsome fight for survival.
Sometimes the rustle in the bushes actually is a monster. But is it a lion, or man?
Playing Samuels’ two teenaged daughters are Iyana Halley (The Hate U Give) as his 18-year-old daughter Meredith and Leah Jeffries (Empire series) as 13-year-old, Norah. The younger daughter particularly stood out as a likeable, witty and quick-thinking adolescent. This left the typical teenaged, angsty and awkward performance to the older daughter, who blames her father for not being there during her mother’s cancer illness and not keeping to his word that everything would be alright. This burden of guilt likely weighs heavily on Samuels and explains why he is so driven, perhaps much more than usual, to this time, protect his family from danger.
Rounding out the main cast is Martin Battles played by Sharlto Copley (Maleficent), an old family friend and wildlife biologist who manages the game reserve. In addition to being Samuels’ best friend, who originally introduced him to his wife, Martin is passionate about protecting the lions and has a very special long-lasting relationship with them. We also discover that he will go to any lengths to protect the lions from the poachers.
Beast follows in the genre of films like Jaws and perhaps Predator, which centre around the premise of a vengeful animal who will relentlessly seek out and attack their prey. Expect gore, guts and plenty of jumping out of your skin moments! The final showdown between Samuels and the lion is particularly gruesome, fans of Elba may want to look away at this point because he is shredded, and not in a good way!
While the script is quite light on rich dialogue and you will end up wanting to scream at the characters to “wind up that darn window” or “for goodness’ sake, shut that front door”, much like we still do today watching a Scream movie, Beast feels like a classic animal thriller in the making, with a topical message. Sometimes the rustle in the bushes actually is a monster. But is it a lion, or man?
Beast is out in UK cinemas from 26 August 2022.