2022’s summer movie season has brought us dinosaurs, creepy UFO’s and of course a few superheroes, but it’s nice to find a star-driven, mid-budget film that feels entirely indebted to Jaws: arguably the first summer blockbuster in 1976. While Beast may not be on quite the same level as Steven Spielberg‘s classic, it’s still a slick thriller bolstered by the premise of Idris Elba facing off against a lion – albeit not quite in the ridiculous one-on-one fashion the posters seem to be suggesting. Much like Jaws though, Beast‘s greatest strength is in its suspense.
The story sees Elba’s Dr. Nate Samuels journey to South Africa with his daughters Meredith and Norah in an attempt to reconnect with them after the death of their mother. There may be some family tension, but there’s some stunning vistas and wildlife to see, guided by family friend Martin (Sharlto Copley). A peaceful holiday is soon interrupted by a series of vicious lion attacks, and soon the Samuels family must fight for survival as they find themselves trapped in the middle of the desert with no help and a rogue lion on the hunt…
Running at a tight 90 minutes, Beast does a good job at establishing its main characters and key story beats before moving straight into the suspense of the lion attacks – aided by some pretty solid CGI. The emphasis on long tracking shots and location work makes for a more immersive experience, while Steven Price‘s score kicks in at key moments to ramp up the tension. The premise may require some suspension of disbelief, but once Beast gets going, there’s a lot to enjoy. Idris Elba delivers a committed and earnest performance that carries the film, while his on-screen chemistry with Copley, Iyana Halley and Leah Sava Jeffries not only feels believable but provides an emotional hook – albeit a somewhat clichéd one.
The screenplay sometimes feels a bit overwritten, the dream sequences a bit superfluous and the ending doesn’t quite land, but Beast makes for a solid, suspense-filled end-of-summer-blockbuster that’s more than a little indebted to Jaws. Beast may not have much to sink your teeth into, but for those looking for a bit of cinematic escapism, it’s well worth a bite.