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Review: ‘Beast’ roars into movie theaters in survival-of-the-fittest thriller

“Beast” is a new movie starring Idris Elba as a physician and a widower who, along with his two young daughters, returns to South Africa where he first met his wife. But the family adventure quickly turns to horror when they are hunted by a wild lion in the action thriller.

A movie poster for the film "Beast" shows star Idris Elba standing with a knife in hand.
"Beast" stars Idris Elba as a widowed father of two on an African safari when his family encounters a deadly wild lion. The new release is playing at the Lakes 12 Theatre in Baxter and the Sunset Cinema in Jenkins.
Frank Lee / Brainerd Dispatch
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BAXTER — It’s a tale as old as time — no, I’m not talking about “Beauty and the Beast” and the famous lyric of the song of the same name.

No, I’m talking about the new movie “Beast.” Set in South Africa, the survival-of-the-fittest, winner-takes-all, do-or-die plot stars English actor Idris Elba and the deadly lion pursuing him.

Elba plays Dr. Nate Daniels in the adventure safari that turns into horror. Daniels is a widower and estranged father of two girls, whom he brings along to Africa where he first met their mom.

Given the demeanor of Elba’s character and the sophisticated manner Daniels carries himself in the film, one has to wonder just how quickly things will turn south for the fractured family or how.

The rugged Elba, whose name often comes up as a possible actor to play James Bond on the big screen someday, cuts an imposing figure but is made more vulnerable with daughters in tow.

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Daniels reconnects in South Africa with old friend Martin Battles, played by South African actor Sharlto Copley, who quickly explains to the girls and moviegoers just how dangerous it can be.

Battles manages the South African game reserve and fends off poachers, too, who seek to sell the reserve’s animals like lions — or parts of them, dead or alive — on the black market.

Copley made a name for himself in the Oscar-nominated science fiction film “District 9,” which was also set in South Africa and dealt with class and race, apartheid and xenophobia.

“Beast” does not attempt to tackle such heady subjects as the 2009 motion picture that starred Copley and portrayed exacerbated human and alien relations fraying at the proverbial seams.

A lion stares directly into the viewer.
A lion stares directly into the viewer.
Contributed / Ingo Stiller via Unsplash.com

“Beast” is rather an old-fashioned motion picture playing at the Lakes 12 Theatre and the Sunset Cinema in Jenkins with its often-times bare-knuckles brawl between man and beast.

The 90-minuted film is rated R for violent content, bloody images and some language but did not appear gratuitously violent for a film or gory for a movie about being hunted by a lion.

The plot is an interesting flip on mankind’s conceited belief he is the apex predator of the wild where Daniels seeks to protect the ones he loves, like his daughters and his friend.

“We’re in his territory now. … It’s the law of the jungle, it’s the only law that matters,” Battles ominously tells Daniels about the blood-thirsty lion.

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MORE MOVIE COLUMNS BY FRANK LEE:
“Devotion” is is the feature film adaptation of the book of the same name about the friendship between U.S. Naval officers Jesse Brown and Tom Hudner during the Korean War. The biographical drama stars Jonathan Majors as Brown, a Black man, and Glen Powell as Hudner.

The computer-generated images of lions in “Beast” appear lifelike enough on the big screen to fool the viewers’ eyes, even when one or more of them interact directly with the cast.

The movie’s over-reliance on “jump-scares,” a cinematic technique in which someone or something dangerous suddenly appears seemingly out of nowhere, can be annoying.

Many horror movie fans consider jump-scares to be a cheap ploy to frighten the audience. But when used sparingly, they have their place.

But the more time the lions of “Beast” appeared on screen, the better. Their ferocious majesty or contemplative stillness that belie a potentially lethal next move is plenty scary and awe-inspiring.

Frank Lee
Frank Lee

At times one has to wonder how smart it was for Daniels to bring his young daughters to the South African game reserve as part of a sentimental journey to deal with emotional scars.

The question throughout the film is whether the bonds of family and the love of it are stronger than a wild animal weighing several hundred pounds with razor-sharp teeth or claws.

“Beast” currently holds a 66% approval rating among critics and a 76% approval rating among audiences at Rotten Tomatoes, a review-aggregation website for film and television.

The consensus from the critics at RottenTomatoes.com: “Want to watch Idris Elba fight a lion? The admirably lean yet ultimately disposable ‘Beast’ is just the movie you're looking for.”

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FRANK LEE may be reached at 218-855-5863 or at frank.lee@brainerddispatch.com . Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/bdfilmforum .

Related Topics: MOVIESTHINGS TO DO BRAINERD
I cover arts and entertainment, and write feature stories, for the Brainerd Dispatch newspaper. As a professional journalist with years of experience, I have won awards for my fact-based reporting. And my articles have also appeared in other publications, including USA Today. 📰
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