An American in peril in a foreign country, being pursued for reasons he doesn’t quite understand – it’s the sort of cinematic life that has been lived countless times before. Beckett isn’t going to win any points for originality, but the film still manages to hold a viewer’s attention. Eventually, anyway.
Beckett (John David Washington) and his girlfriend April (Alicia Vikander) are on holiday in Greece. The pair are saddled with an interplay so syrupy that the audience might be in danger of developing diabetes if it continued for much longer. Fortunately, it doesn’t. An accident lands Beckett in the middle of a political conspiracy of the “trust no one” type, and he finds himself on the run, trying to get to the heart of the mystery in order to clear his name.
The first quarter feels like it’s procrastinating, loitering until it can truly assume its genre (thriller) and properly get underway. The plot abruptly accelerates, and the film is all the more better for it, but as a Netflix original, there’s the prospect that some viewers may not hang in there long enough. Washington makes for a commanding though unenthusiastic hero, and his appeal distracts from the often threadbare nature of the story. Naming a film after the protagonist is not especially imaginative, almost giving the impression of deliberately nudging the piece into action hero territory (John Wick, Jack Reacher, Jason Bourne), and Washington certainly obliges. He’s able to remain remarkably agile and on the run, despite suffering from catastrophic injuries, and isn’t hesitant to throw himself into stunts of a death-defying variety – rather implausibly, since his character is a software developer.
The conspiracy at the heart of the film (a kidnapping, leftwing and rightwing political factions facing off) is disappointingly credible once it’s explained, even to the point of being anticlimactic. It’s less a case of political intrigue than a case of mild interest that’s vaguely political in nature.
Beckett is released on Netflix on 13th August 2021.
Watch the trailer for Beckett here: