Lions and poachers and snares, oh my! Within the satisfyingly grisly survival thriller “Beast,” Idris Elba performs a grieving widower who drags his two teenage daughters to a South African sport reserve, embarking on an emotional journey that devolves right into a nightmarish tussle with Mom Nature. Jean-Luc Godard famously mentioned that each one you should make a film is a woman and a gun; this one has two women and a number of other rifles, although one in all them solely fires none-too-effective tranquilizer darts. The film’s actual weapon is a really massive, very offended, skillfully computer-generated king of the jungle that seems to have a significant bone to choose (or crush) with the human race.
The animus is greater than justified, given the ruinous state of the world on the whole and the ruthless poachers who’ve hunted these lions specifically. A number of of these poachers come to a deservedly nasty finish within the prologue, a tense nighttime set piece that establishes the human-versus-nature stakes and, no much less vital, a constant, coherent visible scheme. A lot of the mayhem in “Beast” is staged in prolonged, serpentine monitoring pictures that preserve tempo with the characters as they attempt to detect, evade and flee from a predator that may at all times be just some lunges away. As his digital camera prowls the rugged terrain in exactly choreographed actions, director Baltasar Kormákur (working with cinematographer Philippe Rousselot) achieves a bodily groundedness that makes even a digitally engineered predator appear palpably actual.
That groundedness additionally anchors the predictably hokey if refreshingly easy narrative preliminaries specified by Ryan Engle’s screenplay (primarily based on a narrative by Jaime Primak Sullivan). Nate Samuels (Elba) is a health care provider, which you’ll be able to wager goes to come in useful. He and his daughters — moody, photography-loving Mare (Iyana Halley) and spunky Norah (Leah Jeffries) — are visiting South Africa, the homeland of their just lately deceased spouse and mom. (The film was shot on location within the nation’s Northern Cape province.) They’re on a therapeutic journey, or not less than that’s the concept; household friction retains intruding, a lot of it rooted in Nate’s particular failures as a husband and father.
Serving to to alleviate the temper is Nate’s longtime pal Martin (the invaluable Sharlto Copley, from “District 9”). A mixture sport warden and wildlife whisperer, Martin is available to play safari information and murmur ominous warnings about “the law of the jungle,” whilst he demonstrates firsthand how innocent and cuddly the native lion prides are. You may’t blame them for the graphically mauled human corpses that abruptly flip up in a close-by village. That may be the handiwork of a a lot greater, meaner lion that quickly roars into the body, trapping the group deep within the South African bush with solely a stalled jeep for shelter. There’s a peculiarly monstrous, nearly mutant high quality to this dark-maned beast, who appears to be like a bit like Aslan of the Useless, or maybe Scar from “The Lion King” after a cocktail of steroids and bathtub salts.
That sounds ridiculous, nevertheless it seems to be simply the correct amount of ridiculous for this shrewd, stripped-down late-summer diversion. Kormákur has been working his manner towards this B-movie candy spot for some time. Over a profession that’s zigzagged between his native Iceland and Hollywood, he’s grow to be a dependable catastrophe artist, capsizing a ship in “The Deep,” stranding two lovers at sea in “Adrift” and following mountain climbers on a snowy loss of life march in “Everest.” The human physique in extremis is his consolation zone, and right here, with pouncing paws, snapping jaws and discreetly blood-gushing wounds, he sustains — and, crucially, modulates — the specter of grievous bodily hurt.
It helps that the central foursome, particularly Halley and Jeffries, are as likable as they’re, which helps mitigate and even promote the absurdity of these moments that may have you ever screaming “Stay in the car, you idiot!” and “Roll up the [your choice of expletive] window!” Elba, a reliably suave man of motion, shrewdly downplays right here as a bumbling dad who, brawny body and medical experience apart, is not any bodily match for Pridezilla. That is still true whilst issues hurtle towards an inevitable mano-a-mane climax, a daft if fulfilling reminder that simply since you’ve seen one killer CGI lion, it doesn’t imply you’ve seen them maul.
Score: R, for violent content material, bloody photographs and a few language
Operating time: 1 hour, 33 minutes
Taking part in: Begins Aug. 19 on the whole launch