Beckett is a throwback to 70s thrillers that’s easily dismissable.
This review of the Netflix film Beckett does not contain spoilers.
Ferdinando Filomarino’s Beckett is an easily dismissable throwback to 70s thrillers. It’s clearly set with a limited budget. It’s atmospheric, taking you through Greece’s countrysides and enhanced by an effective, ominous score. Where the film suffers is its straightforward story and an underwhelming plot that falls back into old cliches. The final product is an easily dismissable thriller.
Beckett stars John David Washington as the titular character vacationing in the Mediterranean countryside with April (Alicia Vikander). After a nice day taking pictures of the historic landscape, they attempt a long drive back at night. Unfortunately, Beckett didn’t realize he fell asleep at the wheel.
His car tumbles down a hill and through the wall of a cabin below. When Beckett comes to, he is in hospital, and no one knows where April is. When he returns to the crash scene, he becomes the target of a chase and is running to get to the U.S. Embassy.
Beckett was originally titled Born to Be Murdered (a much better title, though it doesn’t make sense after watching it) and was filmed in 2019. The film’s plain approach isn’t related to pandemic financial restraints. The script by Kevin A. Rice, his first produced, is admirably honest when it comes to human behavior.
For instance, each time Washington’s Beckett finds someone who helps him, he manages to get away, but without consequences to his savior. This isn’t a 90s thriller where the main character creates a distraction to help out his fellow man or leave a clue for the authorities to help. His choosing to save his own life over others has consequences. Another aspect of the film that heightens some tension that most films do not do is there is no use of a closed caption translation. This creates a greater sense of true loneliness and isolation.
Beckett begins to slow down as he starts to make decisions that are cliched and, frankly, dumb. This goes against the grain the film tried to establish completely in the first half. Complete with the obvious bureaucratic villain. The most interesting part of the film is the backdrop of political unrest, kidnapping, violent protests, and assassination attempts offscreen. Which, admittedly, gives the film a bit of flavor where it otherwise would have remained stagnant.
Besides Washington’s raw performance, which has some rare authenticity of how worn out and exhausting being on the run could be, Beckett lacks a certain urgency for a chase thriller. And even the higher aspirations are convoluted, at best. Neither rises to a boil that the film desperately needed.
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