Starring: John David Washington, Alicia Vikander, Boyd Holbrook, Vicky Krieps
Director: Ferdinando Cito Filomarino
Writers: Kevin Rice, Ferdinando Cito Filomarino
Release Date: August 13, 2021
Rating 4/5 stars.
Plot summary: Lovers April (Alicia Vikander) and Beckett (John David Washington) are vacationing in Athens, Greece. Learning there will be a political protest outside their hotel the couple retreats to the Greece countryside. One night while traveling to the next town Beckett falls asleep while driving, the car veers off the road, crashing into a seemingly abandoned house, injuring Beckett and killing April (this is not a spoiler. ‘Beckett’ is Washington’s movie). While waiting for help Beckett sees a young boy and an adult woman, who do not help him. At the hospital Beckett gives a report to the local police captain (Panos Koronis)
, telling him about the accident and about the boy and woman he saw. The police captain tells Beckett the house is deserted and that he must have hallucinated seeing the boy and woman. Beckett returns to the crash site, for closure or other reasons perhaps. The police captain and a woman show up, try to murder Beckett, fail, and the chase is on. From house to farmhouse to bee farm to train station to Athens to the US Embassy. The whole time the police captain, the woman, and an unknown third person chasing and trying to kill Beckett. Beckett receives assistance from hunters to beekeepers to political activists (Vicky Krieps and Maria Votti)
to US Embassy representative Tynan (Boyd Holbrook)
. I’ll end the summary there. If you’ve seen movies such as ‘The Man Who Knew Too Much’ and ‘North By Northwest’ you know where the movie is going.
Review (including spoilers): I came across ‘Beckett’ via Bilge Ebiri, who tweeted his review from Vulture. (link to Bilge’s review Movie Review: Netflix’s Beckett, with John David Washington (vulture.com) I hadn’t heard of the movie until I saw Bilge’s tweet. Beckett did not appear in the ‘Trending Now’ or any of the other categories. I’m glad I follow Bilge on twitter, otherwise I may never have gotten to watch ‘Beckett.’ Bilge refers to the movie’s pace as leisurely. Leisurely is one way to describe how ‘Beckett’ moves along. I’ll use slow. Methodical to be more complimentary. Kind of like a Matt Damon ‘Bourne’ movie without the jump cuts and frantic pace. Slowish as it is I did not mind sitting and watching to see where the movie was going to end up and how it got there. If you have seen the movies reference above you know where it is going. Nobody is who the seem and the protagonist wins with help from unlikely places.
The acting is good. Washington is fine as the everyman hero. Not particularly charismatic or engrossing, but fine. He’s likable and comfortable to watch. Vikander is good in her brief role. As are supporting players Krieps and Votti, the Greek actors who play the locals Beckett encounters, and Koronis as the dirty cop. I like Boyd Holbrook. And he’s convincing as the US Embassy rep/heel. Though Holbrook being a bad guy was obvious from the opening credits (In a movie in which Holbrook is NOT the male lead he’s probably going to turn out to be the bad guy).
Unlike his turn as Protagonist in ‘Tenet,’ Washington’s Beckett is not the well-trained super soldier spy, adept with weaponry and at hand-to-hand combat. Washington was wrong for that role and he’s not quite right for this role. He’s a good actor but not really a lead hero type able to pull viewers into his character, like Cary Grant does in ‘North by Northwest’ for instance. He does play the white collar guy who must do things he is not in order to survive. His Beckett is not a trained fighter and the fight scenes are choreographed like they would be if two untrained people fought each other. He is also good in the scene where he seeks out Holbrook’s help and is fed nonsense about his situation. Washington plays the scene like a rube who is inclined to believe what authority figures tell him.
Filomarino directs like he’s making an old style suspense thriller. Not rushing. Scenes, even action scenes, are subdued (with one absurd exception at the movie’s climax), scenes are sometimes shot in long slow takes, and the actors are given the time to play their characters. Filomarino seems to be letting the story and actors set the suspense and both succeed.
I recommend ‘Beckett’ and give it 4 out of 5 stars. In my rating system 4 stars is short of being on the year’s best of list but means a good movie worth watching.