The Idris Elba-led survival actioner “Beast” doesn’t so much roar as whimper.

Isolated creature features are far from rare or being particularly hard to produce, but when done well, they can be a paragon of simple, effective filmmaking delivering concentrated thrills. The past few years have provided moviegoers with quite a few good films of this genre, including The Shallows (2016), Backcountry (2014), Prey (2022), and the so incredibly underrated Crawl (2019), Placing powerful actors in isolated, seemingly inescapable situations with great predators in 90-minute fights for survival. Still, for every The Shallows, there is a 47 Meters Down (2017), and these films are often used as cheap, disposable fodder made directly for the Walmart bargain bins. Still, it’s usually relatively easy to tell what you’re getting from the jump, and with Baltasar Kormákur’s Beast, one can safely assume that a film such as this can solely rest on the laurels of mega-star Idris Elba (Hobbs & Shaw). But how much heavy lifting is needed to ascend beyond a conventional premise?


L-R: Sharlto Copley as Martin, Iyana Halley as Mare, Idris Elba as Nathan, and Leah Sava Jeffries as Norah in BEAST, directed by Baltasar Kormákur. © 2022 Universal Studios. All Rights Reserved.

Dr. Nate Samuels (Idris Elba) is an American physician visiting South Africa, the homeland of his deceased ex-wife, with his daughters Mare (Iyana Halley) and Norah (Leaf Jeffries). Greeted by an old friend, Martin (Sharlto Copley), they begin their trip on a grand, private safari in the South African wilderness. After visiting a village for help tending to an injured lion in a nearby pride, the group finds nearly the entire village slaughtered by an unknown creature. As they attempt to piece together this grisly puzzle, they soon find themselves hunted by a rogue lion hellbent on bloodshed. Trapped in their car, Nate, Martin, and his daughters must fight for survival in the South African wilderness.


L-R: Idris Elba and director Baltasar Kormákur on the set of BEAST, directed by Baltasar Kormákur. Photo Credit: Lauren Mulligan/Universal Pictures. © 2022 Universal Studios. All Rights Reserved.

Beast is a film that both thrives and falters on its simplicity. At 93 minutes, it’s a very quick, very efficient little thriller that doesn’t waste a single second of the viewer’s time building upon things that are irrelevant once our team is fighting for survival against the lion. Beast knows what the audience wants, and doesn’t pussyfoot around in getting to the goods. Unfortunately, it’s this same simplicity that leaves a good majority of the film feeling painfully conventional, never straying from the most predictable path, always hitting the story beats you expect from a film like this, and never surprising the audience with any thrills we haven’t experienced in many films of the like many times before.

This becomes a real shame when you see how well-produced Beast is. Directed by Icelandic director Baltasar Kormákur (Everest, Adrift), shot by French cinematographer Philippe Rousselot (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Sherlock Holmes), with a musical score from Steven Price (Gravity, Last Night in Soho). There’s never a moment where Beast doesn’t look and sound wonderful. There’s a rousing amount of craft and effort that has gone into how the film is produced, but I really wish the clunky, uninspiring screenplay could’ve matched that craftsmanship in creating something new and original, or even just elevated from sheer mundanity.

Universal’s Blu-ray release of Beast, labeled once again as the “Collector’s Edition” despite it just being the standard release of the film, does take the aesthetic of the film and capitalizes it as much as it can in a standard release. While this film could’ve really done well with a 4K release with HDR, seeing that the film is both richly colorful and utilizes deep black levels in the nighttime sequences, the standard 1080p presentation still shines here with wonderful beauty. This is one of those films that, unlike how many films have utilized it since its popularity, justifies its use of digital cinematography outside of just bland cost-cutting. This is sleek, clean filmmaking rung true by a fabulous Blu-ray transfer.


L-R: Idris Elba as Nathan, Sharlto Copley as Martin, Iyana Halley as Mare, and Leah Sava Jeffries as Norah in BEAST, directed by Baltasar Kormákur. Photo Credit: Lauren Mulligan/Universal Pictures. © 2022 Universal Studios. All Rights Reserved.

And again, while a 4K release with a full Dolby Atmos track would’ve been ideal, Beast’s DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 audio track is still a treat for the ears. Beast utilizes the body of its sound; the pulse-pounding Price score, the deep roars of the lion, the quiet calms before the storms; as opposed to that of atmospherics that would have benefitted from an Atmos track more. This is a loud, boisterous film, and its included audio track understands that even in its “downgraded” form. There’s really nothing to complain about here.


L-R: Leah Sava Jeffries as Norah, Idris Elba as Nathan, Iyana Halley as Mare in BEAST, directed by Baltasar Kormákur. Photo Credit: Lauren Mulligan/Universal Pictures. © 2022 Universal Studios. All Rights Reserved.

There is actually a decent enough smattering of special features included with the Blu-ray, as well, something typically missing most often on standard studio releases. Special features include:

  • DELETED SCENE – Watch an exclusive unreleased scene from Beast
  • MAN VS. LION: THE FINAL BATTLE – Go inside the epic final battle between Nate and the beast himself as Director Baltasar Kormákur, star Idris Elba, and key members of the VFX team walk us through putting it all together.
  • CREATING THE BEAST – The vicious title character of Beast is no ordinary lion. He’s bigger, he’s meaner, and he’s got an axe to grind against humanity. Sit down with director Baltasar Kormákur as he explains what he envisioned for The Beast.
  • MAKING IT REAL: THE WOUNDS – Sit down with prosthetics supervisor Clinton Smith and prosthetic assistant Daleen Badenhorst as they walk us through all the gory details of creating realistic looking slices, gashes, and tears caused by a massive, predatory lion.
  • FILMING IN THE BEAST’S TERRITORY – Visit Limpopo South Africa where the cast and crew of BEAST travelled to capture all the vistas, planes, and mountains of Africa authentically on film.
  • FAMILY BOND: THE CAST OF THE BEAST – Meet the family at the heart of this story as director Baltasar Kormákur and cast members Idris Elba, Iyana Halley, and Leah Jeffries take us inside their characters’ journeys as they come together and heal in the direst of circumstances.
  • A LION’S PRIDE – Learn the tragic truth of lion poaching with this factual piece that takes viewers inside the fight to protect the big game of Africa.
  • Optional English, French Canadian and Latin American Spanish subtitles for the main feature

I really wish that Beast as a whole was more than just a standard creature feature with a pretty coat of paint, because there is a lot to appreciate here. It’s well-directed, well-shot, well-scored cinema that deserves far more than its weak screenplay can provide it. Idris Elba is never uncharismatic in anything he’s in, and even with a relatively undeveloped protagonist, it’s still entertaining to watch him command a film like this. Beast could be a sum of its parts, but it’s simply the part that makes up a majority of its sum that lacks the thrills to bring it to that next level. Universal’s Blu-ray release presents the film wonderfully, and actually contains some genuinely interesting special features that go beyond what Universal usually provides in their “Collector’s Edition” releases. If you liked Beast, or have a soft spot for creature features of any quality, this is a fabulous pickup. Maybe wait to see if Universal ever gives this a full 4K release though, as that would be the true sight to see.

Final Score: 2.5 out of 5.

Available on digital and streaming on Peacock October 7th, 2022.
Available on Blu-ray and DVD October 11th, 2022.

For more information, head to the official Beast website.


Categories: Home Release, Home Video, Recommendation, Reviews, streaming

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