Growing up there was a really popular movie from the UK called ‘Born Free’ that immediately came to mind as I was watching this film. Born Free inspired from the work of real-life husband and wife Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna and how they became wildlife activists. Idris Elba may not be a wildlife activist, but his fierce love and intense desire to protect the women in his life at all costs make or an exhilarating and exciting journey in Beast.
BEAST focuses on recently widowed Dr. Nate Daniels (Idris Elba) and his two teenage daughters as they travel to a South African game reserve managed by Martin Battles (Sharlto Copley), an old family friend and wildlife biologist. However, what begins as a journey of healing soon turns into a fearsome fight for survival when a lion, a survivor of bloodthirsty poachers, begin stalking them.
Lions and Africa have often been symbolized with negativity in everything from Blood Diamonds to The Lion King and Beast does little to transform that image of the King of the Jungle. What this film does accomplish is sharing the beauty of Africa and the majestic aura associated with these creatures. Yet, simultaneously providing insight from their point of view as if they know poachers are their enemy. My heart was stuck in my throat watching Elba get flung around by something three times his size. It was terrifying and stressed me out beyond belief making me jump, flinch and talk back to the screen even though I know in reality the creature is entirely a CGI creation for the screen.
On another note, what I most appreciated about Ryan Engle and Jaime Primak Sullivan’s screenplay is the realism of the relationships between all the characters with an image of a Black man rarely seen in cinema. A man whose unconditional love will make him fight fiercely to protect the women in his life. Particularly, the relationship between Mare and Norah Samuels beautifully played by Iyanna Halley and Leah Jeffries. Halley was so believable as a bratty teen whose grief caused her to disrespectfully act out in such a way I literally want to pull her off the screen and snatch a knot in that behind as only a Black woman can do to a child who misbehaves.
Overall, there are some jumps, scares and brilliant stunt work executed by Elba and gorgeous photography from Philippe Rousselot and Baltasar Breki Samper which will make you want to visit this continent sooner than later, but maybe skip the up close and personal safari option for now.
Produced by Baltasar Kormákur, James Lopez and Will Packer and distributed by Universal Pictures, Beast is in theaters now.