The 2022 survival thriller “Beast” is directed by Baltasar Kormakur and stars the enigmatic Idris Alba, who plays the protagonist, Dr. Nate Samuels. The film, written by Jamie Primak Sullivan and Ryan Engle, takes us inside the untamed land of South Africa. So, let’s see what “Beast” has in store for us, and whether it is able to become that nerve-racking thriller that keeps you on the edge of your seats.
We see a group of men trodding lightly through a forest. You realize that they were poachers who were after a pride of lions. The group splits into two, with one set of poachers going back with the dead bodies of the lions, while the others staying to hunt a last lion who had escaped. But things didn’t go as they had planned. The lion attacked the two poachers and ripped them apart.
Dr. Nate Samuels brought his daughter to a village near Polokwane, South Africa, for a vacation of sorts and also to show them the place where their mother had spent her childhood. His old friend and confidant, Martin Battles, used to work as a wildlife conservationist there and stayed in Mopane. Martin was well versed in the ecosystem of the place. His knowledge of the terrain was as good as any other local. He had spent a lot of years in the area. He had developed a close bond not only with the locals but also with the lions there. It was because of Martin that Nate met his wife, Amahle, for the very first time. The girls, Norah and Meredith, were surprised that the place didn’t have any network. They didn’t know how they would survive without the internet for such a long time. But Martin assures them that there would be a lot of things for them to see and observe, and they wouldn’t be bored at all. Through their conversations, we come to know that Meredith, a.k.a. Mare had a lot of unresolved issues with her father. Nate and Amahle had separated, and that’s when she came to know that she was suffering from cancer. Nate was a doctor, but he couldn’t do anything. He wasn’t even there with her, during her last moments. Mare was disappointed in him. She felt that he was not a good husband and left her mother when she needed him most. She also felt that he had no time for his daughters and often didn’t have any clue about what was happening in their lives. Mare tells him that Martin had shown more interest in her passion for photography than he had ever done. Nate wanted to mend this bond, but he knew that it was an uphill task to do so, especially with a young adult who was in a rebellious mode and was not ready to hear any explanations or excuses.
Martin decides to take Nate, Mare, and Norah on a safari tour inside the forest area. Because he used to work there, he was able to take them into the core area where the tourists weren’t allowed. He makes them meet a pride of lions, whom he had raised and then later released them in their natural habitat. He noticed that one female lion was gravely injured and was not able to walk properly. He presumed that it might be the work of the poachers. They moved ahead and went further inside the forest. The untamed beauty of South Africa was mesmerizing. It was still untouched and uncorrupted by human beings, though the poachers were making sure that it didn’t stay that way for a very long time. Martin was a part of the anti-poaching squad and had conducted a few crackdowns on their ghettos. The girls were curious to know what lay inside those dense bushes, though they were totally unaware that once they knew it, they wouldn’t be able to forget it ever in their lifetimes.
Martin took Nate and his daughters to a village situated deep inside the forest. An ethnic group called the Tsonga used to reside there. Martin asked the girls to be extremely polite and courteous towards them. He told them they were good and simple people who kept to themselves and were very helpful. When Martin reached there, to his horror, he saw that the whole village had been killed. He didn’t know if there were any survivors. It looked like it was the work of a predator. But Martin was astonished. Lions and other predators of that area didn’t usually act like this. He knew that something wasn’t right. The mountains used to block the signal there, so Martin wanted to reach a nearby outpost where a signal was available. On his way, he meets Mutende, a local who had gone with a couple of people inside the forest. He said that he had seen the devil. Mutende was gravely injured and succumbed to his injuries. Martin hears a growling sound coming from inside the bushes. He goes there and is attacked by the same predator that had killed the villagers. It was a lion who was on the hunt. His pride had been killed by the poachers, and he had realized who the real enemy was.
Martin gets stranded on a marshland, and after attacking him the lion went and attacked Nate and his daughter. They somehow manage to escape, but the jeep goes out of control, and they get stuck on the edge of a cliff. They had limited supplies, and now even the car wouldn’t start. Nate knew that in order to save his and his family’s lives, he had to find Martin. He kept speaking on the walkie in the hope that he would hear the voice of his friend from the other end. His efforts were fruitful, and he finally heard from him. The lion attacked again, but Norah was able to pierce a tranquilizer in its body. Mare found Martin and brought him back to the vehicle, where Nate and Norah were waiting for them. Nate tried to dress his wounds with whatever was available at that point in time. In the night, a group of poachers arrived at the scene. Nate asked them for help, but as soon as they saw Martin, they got violent. Martin had killed a few poachers from the same gang, and now they wanted revenge. They didn’t care if a predator was on the loose. The lion attacked again and drove the poachers into the forest. Nate thought that he would make use of the vehicle in which the poachers had come and save his family. But there were no keys in the vehicle. One of the poachers had taken it with him. Nate left his daughters and Martin inside the jeep and went into the forest to find the poachers who had the key. Though Nate found the keys, the lion attacked Martin and the girls once again. Because the vehicle was on the edge of a cliff, it fell down, taking Martin and the lion with it. The girls had managed to escape and hide in the vehicle of the poachers. Martin knew that there was no way out, and he had to end his misery and save Nate and his family. He let the lion come close and then put himself on fire, believing that it would kill the lion. But the lion survived once again.
Nate went back to the same place where Martin and his colleague Banji had met the pride of lions. There was an abandoned school in that area, and Nate went inside it in the hope of finding a first aid kit, as Mare had been heavily injured. Nate made use of whatever resources were present there and stopped Mare’s bleeding. The lion once again came back. It felt as if it was immortal. Nate knew that it would never stop hunting them, so he accepted the challenge. He went out, and the lion followed him. He took the Beast close to the pridelands of those lions that were raised by Martin and Banji. He knew that the lions would kill it to protect their pride. Banji also arrived at the scene and shot the Beast. The lion died, and it finally ended the nightmare. Banji found Mare and Norah and took Nate to a hospital. He opened his eyes to find both his daughters sitting beside him. He had lost a friend, but he was grateful for the fact that his children were still with him. He hoped to start afresh and mend his relationship with Mare.
“Beast” takes you into familiar pastures and tries to weave a narrative that, though looks intriguing in the beginning, becomes directionless after a point of time. Baltasar Kormakur’s “Beast” is as clueless as its lead actors. Idris Alba seems out of form, and even Iyana Halley as Meredith Samuels (Alba’s daughter) lacks the intensity and the fervor that you need for a survival thriller. It felt as if nothing big was at stake, though in reality, it was a matter of life and death for the characters. However, the performers cannot be held solely responsible. The dialogues in the film were a huge letdown. It lacked novelty and seemed repetitive. Amidst all these shortcomings, the biggest blunder was that the writers, Jamie Primak Sullivan and Ryan Engle, didn’t know what to do after setting up the foundation.
When I watched the trailer, I hoped that the makers would be able to bring something intriguing to the screen, because, truth be told, the trailer was much more captivating than the film itself. Being an admirer of the genre, I was prepared for an immersive experience, but “Beast” operates at a very superficial level. It lacks a philosophy, the existence of which would have saved the cause. The writers tried to talk about poaching, about loss, regret, and a lacuna that existed between a father and his daughter, but unfortunately, they were not able to capitalize on even a single one of them. If you were told to write an abstract of the screenplay, you would not be able to jot it down because you would still be oblivious to the purpose of the film. When the film ends, you are left wondering what exactly your takeaway from it should be. I would suggest that instead of watching Beast, you should rather opt to watch an episode of Man vs. Wild, as it would be far more entertaining, thrilling, and informative.
“Beast” is a 2022 Drama Survival Film directed by Baltasar Kormakur.
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