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Critics call Idris Elba's 'Beast' a tense, full-terror, action-packed survival thriller

Idris Elba stars in the new man vs. nature film.

By Matthew Jackson
Idris Elba as Nathan in Beast (2022).

Hey, you wanna go see Idris Elba fight a lion?

That's the basic hook behind Beast, the new film from director Baltasar Kormakur that pits the reliably charming Elba against a ferocious African big cat. Elba plays Dr. Nate Samuels, a biologist who's trying to bond with his two daughters after the death of his wife. To make that happen, he decides to take them on a trip to an African wildlife reserve run by a friend of his (Sharlto Copley). It seems like the perfect place to heal some old wounds, but the lion has other plans. It seems the title beast is out for revenge for humanity's transgressions, leaving Nate to fight to save his daughter at all costs. 

It's a meaty setup for a man vs. nature thriller that allows Elba to show off his action chops while getting some horror-infused, popcorn movie fun out of the whole affair, and based on the first reviews of the film, that's pretty much exactly what you're in for if you head to theaters this weekend. Beast might be over-the-top, even silly, but it's going to give you exactly what it says on the tin.

Here's what some of the top critics around the web have had to say about the film so far.

"Like the great Japanese actor Toshiro Mifune, Elba is an incredibly physical performer who instinctively comes up with little bits of business to reveal the personality of his character. The ending is ludicrous, and yet it works because of all that Elba has invested in making this protective papa convincing. That’s the beauty of Beast: The lion may look fake, but the stakes feel real," Peter Debruge wrote at Variety

"At a tight 93 minutes, the pace barely has time to slacken and despite the familiar family soap setup, Ryan Engle’s efficiently spare and mostly grounded script doesn’t get bogged down by maudlin monologuing. It’s a machine and little more but Elba refuses to be just a cog within it, enthusiastically showing off his often underused movie star wattage, an actor who doesn’t need to rely on clumsy exposition to turn an action lead into a real person, the specificity of his never-not-on facial emotions doing that instead," Benjamin Lee wrote at The Guardian.

"While nothing beats the film’s opening sequence, which delights in playing with the pitch-black darkness of the savanna at night and the threat of a lion who might sneak out and grab you at any minute, when Beast goes full terror, it delivers," Kate Erbland wrote at IndieWire.

"The over-the-top survival thriller definitely fits into the aesthetic of Hollywood’s August burn-off period, where bad (and so-bad-they’re-good) movies reign, though Elba’s charisma goes a long way in terms of enjoyability as do some hair-raising animal attacks," Brian Truitt wrote at USA Today.

"As man vs. beast stories go, this one is neither the best nor the worst. Steven Price’s score keeps the tension high, and Elba and Copley are good enough actors to deliver even the most pedestrian dialogue with conviction. It also helps that the movie runs a tight 90 minutes. Beast is no Jaws, but it’s no Jaws: The Revenge, either," David Rooney wrote at The Hollywood Reporter.

"Beast is a toothsome survival thriller, competently crafted and engagingly realized. There are far worse ways to spend 93 minutes in a movie theater, but audiences hankering for something with some actual substance may be left feeling hungry on mane," William Bibbiani wrote at The Wrap.

Will Beast have the same popcorn movie impact on you? Find out when the film hits theaters Friday.