Baltasar Kormákur’s Beast and his visual effects team present thrills in this conventional man-versus-animal story set among the South African plains where a man must save his family against a lion driven to kill after the loss of its pride to poachers.
Widower Dr. Nate Samuels (Idris Alba) takes his young daughters, Meredith (Iyana Halley), and Norah (Leah Sava Jeffries) to the Mopani Reserve, the homeland of Amahle (Naledi Mogadime), the girls’ mother. There is tension between them, particularly with elder daughter Meredith. She bears a grudge towards regarding her parents’ separation shortly before Amahle got sick with cancer. Nate states was a mutual decision, but even he is experiencing survivor’s guilt.
Nate’s old friend, Martin Battles (Sharlto Copley), who works the reserve, takes the family out to Amahle’s village. Along the way, they discover a female lion who has been shot in the paw by poachers and a village whose inhabitants have been killed by a lion, which is unusual. Martin gets severely attacked by the lion. and in a very tense scene, the creature goes after Nate and his daughters while they are under and within a jeep.
As is typical for characters in movies like this, Nate and the girls make some bad, dangerous decisions to further the plot and the thrills, from dropping weapons to leaving open doors. While these are tropes of the genre, much like in a slasher movie, it makes the character actions no less frustrating to watch. The plot twist resolving the situation, a deus ex leo, although hinted at early on, is more confusing than satisfying.
The video has been given a 1080p/MPEG-4 AVC encoded transfer displayed at the film’s original aspect ratio of 2.39:1. The image presents the warm hues seen in the browns and greens of South African plains well. Blacks are inky with crush occurring during nighttime scenes. The image also delivers good depth and fine texture details. The CGI lion blends well among the real objects and sustains the illusion of believability for the most part.
The audio is available in DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1. The dialogue is clear and understandable throughout. Great ambient effects, such as insects buzzing, can be heard in the surrounds as can composer Steven Price’s score. Loud effects, from lion attacks to vehicle crashes, are supported by the subwoofer, but there is distortion during the bombastic moments.
The HD Bonus Features, which are available to view with a Play-All option, are:
- Deleted Scene (1 min) – An early scene between the daughters
- Creating the Beast (4 min) – A look at the VFX team and the stunt actors
- Man vs. Lion: The Final Battle (3 min) – How Elba and the stunt man worked on the scene
- Making It Real: The Wounds (4 min) – A look at the make-up effects
- Filming in the Beast’s Territory (5 min) – On location, in the South African bush
- Family Bond: The Cast of Beast (6 min) – On the cast and actors
- A Lion’s Pride (8 min) – A look at real lions
Beast offers a fun, albeit familiar, adventure. Although the eventual outcome is not a surprise, Ryan Engle’s script keeps the viewer engaged as it progresses, thanks in part to the cast bringing the main characters to life. They have an interesting family dynamic, and Nate is not a superhero, but just a father struggling to keep his family alive. Kormákur and editor Jay Rabinowitz keep the film moving at a brisk pace, helping to sustain interest. The Blu-ray delivers a pleasing high-def presentation.