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Quick Reviews: 'Beast', 'Where The Crawdads Sing' | Idris Elba, Killer Lion, Daisy Edgar-Jones

Idris Elba looking alarmed, Daisy Edgar-Jones reading
Beast (L), Where The Crawdads Sing (R)


This is certainly just a suggestion but when you have a large animal facing off with a guy who looks like Idris Elba, it wouldn't hurt to put the word ''beauty'' in the title as well. Of course, that might come with its own challenges when that animal inspires the title Beast, as is the case in this man-versus-nature survival thriller from director Baltasar Kormákur. Elba stars as Nate Samuels, an American doctor who is travelling with his two daughters, Mere (Iyana Halley) and younger Norah (Leah Jeffries), to a South African reserve in an area where his deceased wife grew up. They meet up with a family friend and anti-poacher Martin (Sharlto Copley), four of them later discovering a nearby community ravaged and killed likely by a lion, before getting trapped in the middle of nowhere and attacked by the titular beast.

Beast is a classic example of getting exactly what you're promised with the premise and presentation. Without credits, it is a tight survival tale told in under 90 minutes that moves with an energetic pace even if quite predictably. All members of the Samuels family and Martin have extremely basic characteristics for this type of film but Elba especially makes those dramatic moments work as well as possible. It's also in those dramatic moments where Kormákur, DoP Philippe Rousselot and editor Jay Rabinowitz are able to keep the story alive just enough; use of long takes with a lot of forward momentum maintain the tension and focus there when often they're used to show off fight choreography or stunts in this genre. They also lessen the impact of your typical stupid-character-decisions that writer Ryan Engle's script insistently throws in; you don't need those when you have mother nature doing just that.

Smileys: Pacing

Frowneys: Nothing too bad


Idris Elba looking alarmed next to a shack
Universal Pictures


Hopefully you have your twangy American accents ready to go because we're heading to North Carolina marshes where you can't simply get away from them. Mystery drama Where The Crawdads Sing is adapted from a Delia Owens novel of the same name, directed on the big screen by Olivia Newman and written by Lucy Alibar. It follows the life of independent, poor and self-sufficient Kya Clark (Daisy Edgar-Jones as an adult, Jojo Regina as a kid, Leslie France as an elder), unkindly nicknamed as ''The Marsh Girl'', from her childhood struggles to teenage romance with Tate (Taylor John Smith), and to a murder trial in her early twenties. At 19, she's arrested and charged with murder of her lover and popular high school quarterback Chase Andrews (Harris Dickinson).

Perhaps if you somehow watched the film without sound or subtitles on, you might be fooled by its glossiness. Colour pops exceptionally well, romanticising DoP Polly Morgan's photography of Kya and rest's longing, and inserts of nature that surrounds them.

You might even look past the hairstyles and makeup that resemble L'Oréal commercials more than anything else, if it weren't for the text underneath that reveals the contractions which sink the film. There seems to be an attempt with Alibar's script to constantly move and surprise the viewer but nearly every interaction between Kya and others comes off as cringeworthy, rendering the whole arc totally unbelievable. You don't believe the mystery, Kya falling in love, Edgar-Jones as this person, the trial, that any of these people actually are from this area; it all just rings shallow and untrue. Nothing in the screenplay, acting or direction actually sings, they all just play pretend.

Smileys: Colouring

Frowneys: Screenplay, characterisation, hairstyling, tone


Daisy Edgar-Jones reading with nature-themed pictures behind her
Sony Pictures

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