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Directed by Ferdinando Cito Filomarino
Run time 108 minutes
Streaming on Netflix starting Aug. 13
The last year and a half, so many have been aching to travel once again as they did before the pandemic. Beckett, however, is the type of movie that will make you feel okay being safe in your own home – and not in the beautiful Greek countryside where it takes place.
The slow but intense thriller/mystery, directed by Ferdinando Cito Filomarino (best known for his collaborations with filmmaker Luca Guadagnino) opens with Beckett (John David Washington) and his girlfriend April (Alicia Vikander) as they journey through Greece. In the first few scenes, we watch as they flirt and make out – but with the sense that some sort of danger is not too far ahead.
After a car accident (spoiler alert!) in which April is presumably killed (while Beckett survives with minor injuries), the plot swerves into political-thriller territory. Beckett’s interactions with local police who can’t give him a solid answer soon turns into a cat-and-mouse chase – some people want him dead, but we don’t know why.
Being in the wrong place at the wrong time, Beckett is just a normal guy on the run – which frustratingly means he makes rookie mistake after rookie mistake. He frequently trusts strangers and leaves a very obvious trail – okay, he might not be Jason Bourne, but has he not seen a movie before? As the son of Oscar winner Denzel Washington, the actor playing the lead has a lot to live up to – in fact, while one could picture a better version of this film as a 1990s Denzel Washington and Tony Scott collaboration, the junior Washington plays the truly average Beckett with as much force as Filomarino’s muted direction allows him to.
Beckett soon meets activist Lena (Vicky Krieps), someone he can finally trust – which is when the political conspiracy aspect of the movie kicks into gear. The conspiracy itself is convoluted, but clear enough so that the audience at least knows which characters are good or bad. Without knowing much about Beckett (we never really get to know him as a person beyond his love for April), it’s hard to feel invested in the character beyond not wanting him to die.
It’s clear that Filomarino and screenwriter Kevin A. Rice are trying to highlight that Beckett is an Everyman thrust into the most insane circumstances imaginable. But they never really address the elephant in the room: Beckett is a Black man on the run in Greece. In the narrative, there’s no element of his survival that hinges on being a Black man fleeing foreign authorities – his race is almost totally ignored in a way that is out of touch with reality.
Despite its shortcomings, Beckett manages to be a semi-effective thriller, with Washington holding enough attention to get the audience to root for his titular protagonist, but the lack of character development means viewers are never fully invested in his story.
In the interest of consistency across all critics’ reviews, The Globe has eliminated its star-rating system in film and theatre to align with coverage of music, books, visual arts and dance. Instead, works of excellence will be noted with a critic’s pick designation across all coverage. (Television reviews, typically based on an incomplete season, are exempt.)