‘Beckett’ Is A Unique Political Thriller, But Struggles With Tepid Plot Progression – Review
John David Washington is back again, and this time starring in the political thriller Beckett. Washington has steadily been making a name for himself, since his run in 2015’s Ballers. From comedy, science fiction, and action, Washington’s diversified portfolio proves that he can work with Hollywood’s boldest and brightest.
As for the film, it shies away from its contemporaries’ grandiose plot design and intricate web of relationships and adopts a simple and more contained feel as the main character navigates being at the wrong place at the wrong time. Although there’s solid acting from Washington and Vikander and beautiful shot direction, many characters feel underdeveloped amidst a drawn-out and, oftentimes, confusing plot.
Beckett takes audiences through a bird’s eye view of the titular character’s attempt to avoid death, while on vacation in Greece with his girlfriend, April (Alicia Vikander), after experiencing a tragic accident. Washington navigates Greece’s geographically-rich landscape as he becomes the target of the police force, for reasons unknown. But soon enough he unravels the greater plot behind the assassination attempts on his life.
Produced by Luca Guadagnino, of Call Me By Your Name fame, and directed by Ferdinando Cito Filomarino, Beckett exits the 74th Locarno Film Festival to become a part of Netflix’s pantheon of political thrillers. Alongside Washington and Vikander, Boyd Holbrook, Vicky Krieps, and Panos Koronis round out the cast.
What is intriguing about the titular character, which sets it apart from other political thrillers, is that Beckett doesn’t have any advanced access, increased intelligence, or even a political background. In the words of Cardi B, he’s just a “regular, degular, shmegular” guy. Which is refreshing, to say the least. It adds to Washington’s natural likability that radiates in each character he plays.
Making characters “fish out of water” within the plot is not uncommon for movies of this nature, but what this movie strives to do is take fantasy and make it feel like reality. As Beckett maneuvers through Greece, there’s this bit of intimacy that Washington and the camera have. Even within the grandest scenes, he seems to always be a connection to it.
These small moments of intimacy are juxtaposed with vast and sometimes distracting settings that the characters are placed in. Cito Filomarino’s English language feature debut creates beauty in still, long shots in the outdoors and cityscapes of Greece. The style of filming, paired with an unlikely hero, stands out from the pack of high-octane political thrillers.
At times, this is a plus, adding a bit of delicateness to a movie of this nature. But in other moments, it could use more energy, as the movie begins to feel drawn out. Even the trailer makes the movie seem more high-octane than it actually is. Additionally, due to the drawn-out nature of the plot, the points that lead to the overall twist feel confusing and frustrating. And with the tepid progression of the story, the climax of the film feels underwhelming.
Beckett’s setting is calm and soothing, which leads to a dreaminess in the film that encapsulates the audience, but does not aid in keeping the movie at a steady pace. With that loss of pace, comes a loss of focus on the development of different plot points, that even the acting talents of the cast can’t seem to reel in.
What’s also lost is the development of the film’s characters, with the most character development coming from Tynan (Holbrook). Even as the film progresses, it feels like you never understand who Beckett truly is. The film strives to make a relatable action protagonist, but as the plot progresses, who the protagonist is seems less important and what the protagonist can do and escape from starts to feel more far-fetched.
Creating an “everyday kind of hero” was an interesting touch, but wasn’t enough to bring energy and focus to this film. In all, Washington does a solid job of being a “normal” man on the run, but where Washington goes, the film does not follow.