Directed By Ferdinando Cito Filomarino
Starring – John David Washington, Boyd Holbrook, Vicky Krieps
The Plot – While vacationing in Greece, American tourist Beckett (Washington) becomes the target of a manhunt after a devastating accident. Forced to run for his life and desperate to get across the country to the American embassy to clear his name, tensions escalate as the authorities close in, political unrest mounts, and Beckett falls even deeper into a dangerous web of conspiracy.
This film is currently not rated
– Geographical influence. The gorgeous imagery of the European countryside remains a beneficial prominence throughout the film, all the while further fleshing out the isolation factor of the conflict that the titular protagonist finds fighting against. Aside from this being breathtaking scenery for the sake of spectacle and stylistic flare in the concepts of cinematography, it attains meaning and vulnerability for the sake of Beckett vacationing in a foreign land, where not only are these various strangers he interacts with cloaked in skepticism, for the way he knows so little about them, but also in the overwhelming abundance of odds against him that further progresses this initial nightmare, where he’s already lost everything important to him to begin the film. As to where some films shoot domestically to give off the European impression to save money on its budget, “Beckett” is one that enriches itself with the authenticity of on-site shooting in Greece to further enhance the believability of the story, bringing with it no shortage of contrasting cultural sizzle to play against the visceral violence of the invasive conflict in one of its thousands of neighborhood burrows.
– Ambitious presentation. In breaking away from the conception or stigma’s surrounding 90’s action thrillers, “Beckett” brings with it an alluring series of sleek movements and unconventional framing to play to the environmental atmosphere in each sequence. This is great for many reasons, but for my money it’s in the way that cinematographer Sayombhu Mukdeeprom takes the same lingering persistence of imagery in the backgrounds, just as he did with 2018’s “Suspiria”, and flesh it out to illustrate some unforeseen ingredient that will make its presence felt inevitably enough. On top of this, I love the dynamic in balance in illustrating Beckett with his own perspective versus those of the strangers he frequently comes into contact with. It allows the film the accessibility into their mentalities that really affords audiences a look into these otherwise forgotten extras, conjuring up as much value to their distrust of Beckett as he has in relying on trusting in each of them to get him out of trouble.
– Stakes and vulnerability. Most of the time with on-the-run thrillers, there’s an unseen safety net of protection that affords audiences the ability to turn away in these tense sequences, but here Washington’s Beckett gets put through the mental and physical ringers, each bearing a sufferable weight to the continuation of his journey that had me legitimately worried during more than a few sequences. Aside from this being a violent film at times, complete with bullet wounds and brunt blows of devastation in offense, it’s also a psychologically humbling one, bearing the weight and frail healing of loss, and the denouncements of time that take away from that healing. It gives the audience plenty to consider that is constantly hanging in the balance at all times, all the while fleshing out an earnestness and likeability for the protagonist that helps terrifically in keeping the story moving through some overtly convoluted aspects of storytelling, which I will get to in a second.
– Physical protagonist. While I still have a problem with the emotional prowess of Washington cast in this particular role, I will say that the dedication to craft that he affords in some truly back-breaking sequences of physicality more than supplanted him as an action force in contemporary cinema. John David is hurled with the kind of velocity that most actors aren’t afforded with, all the while wearing the impact of each occasion in the way he walks, runs, and even breathes throughout the film. In that aspect, Washington supplants consistencies to the character that are often overlooked in movies of this particular genre, granting a lived-in quality to the unraveling of the narrative, which does surprisingly attain believability in the events of the film taking shape in real time enveloping. Aside from this, his momentary chemistry with Alicia Vikander is a beneficial delight to the film, where we spend just enough time with this couple to articulate the stakes that overwhelm each of them for entirely different reasons.
– Convoluted essence. Without question, the single biggest problem plaguing this script is its desire to be too many things to too many different genres. This is realized in what can be dissected as three different films, with one being a political thriller, one being a cross-country manhunt, and one being a sentimental melodrama. Each of these are fine on their own accord, but when stitched together with the sum of their parts transitions with the kind of magnetism as a semi-truck to a nitroglycerine factory, complete with abrupt sequencing and faulty editing that leaves a lot to be desired, in terms of believability. This is most compromising to the integrity of the finished product, because none of these arc’s are explored in ways that grant clarity and resolution to the conjuring of their subplots, and when thrown together with a barrage of one-off characters, like Holbrook’s U.S Embassy agent, bring forth a disjointed effort that is strangely stitched without the satisfaction of feeling intriguing for all of the wrong reasons.
– Unintentionally humorous. Speaking of entertainment value for the wrong reasons, there’s a strange directing choice to certain sequences that brought forth lasting laughter to my registry in these otherwise gritty, palpable sequences. Part of it could be in the rudimentary underlining of the dialogue, which is often cloaked in these studio influenced diatribes that don’t feel remotely synonymous with the personalities of the characters, but the greater cause for concern is in Washington’s engagement with the native people, which gets taken overboard to the determent of the sequence. An example is in Beckett needing a getaway vehicle to elude local authorities, so he comes across a woman on a motorcycle, who beats him senseless in his attempt at theft. It’s one in a series of sequences that add uncomplimentary humor to the dynamic of the movie’s overwhelming seriousness, fitting like two left shoes to a story that is trying to walk on its own feet to elude familiarity.
– The unexpected. I suppose the last movie that you want to be compared to in the action genre is the Fast and Furious franchise, but when you consider “Beckett” to be stuffed with these sequences of alarming feats to bodily capabilities, you can’t help but think about the defying gravity from Justin Lin’s most notable work to date. Without spoiling much here, I will say that there’s mountain jumps that Beckett walks away from unfurled, a barrage of bullets to vital organs that should slow him down a lot more than he’s letting on, and even an entire sequence near the end, involving a parking garage, that is ripped entirely from Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight”. These moments of interruption often broke the tension that the movie’s first half sternly emitted, and took me completely out of the element of the engagement, which on its own was already wearing thin because of some alarming pacing issues persisting during the movie’s second act.
– One-dimensional music. I may be alone on this one, but I found the ensuing musical arrangements from one of my favorite composers, Ryuichi Sakamoto, to be every bit as outdated as it was meandering to the integrity of the tense sequences it accompanied. It’s certainly easy to see what Sakamoto was going for here, mainly conjuring an audible homage to the action genre films of the 90’s that were all the rave for the time. But that desire in artistic merit affords a conventionalism to the film’s audible interpretation capacities that ground it in expectations, and muddle each of their compositions in waves of repetition that hindered the exploration. On top of that, the abrupt arrivals of the cues themselves are inserted as abruptly and detectably obvious as one can predict, especially those instances involving stranger interaction for Beckett that point to these dark and condemning strikes of the organ to sew uncertainty into audiences that the movie thinks are too stupid to interpret on their own.
– Flat characterization. If you remove the opening fifteen minutes of the film used to establish the dynamic of Washington and Vikander’s coupling, we learn absolutely nothing about the titular protagonist to sell his appeal. What’s even more problematic is what we do learn in this initial sequence is more of a vehicle for the latter instead of the former, leaving us with the least appealing of the two, whom we’re now forced to endure for nearly the next two hours of run time. Along the way, the tight-lipped Beckett is illustrated with the kind of blandness or minimalization of appeal that keeps him anywhere from the same neighborhood as iconic protagonists as John McClane or John Rambo, stopping only momentarily so he can reflect over a momento that Vikander gave him at the beginning of the film that you knew would play a more sentimental part as the film progressed. Essentially, Beckett is a virtual unknown who we never explore further in the hodgepodge of the movie’s themes and abrupt tonal shifts, giving him a complete abandonment of depth that certainly rivals the one-dimensional antagonists that are the majority in this and the other action films it homages but never reaches in attachment.
My Grade: 5/10 or D