Beckett review: Netflix thriller is an adequate if uninspired Greek escape
In these tumultuous times, we can still, as always, rely on the certainties of death, taxes, and mediocre Netflix original movies. One of the latest, Beckett, is a thriller in the mold of many of the streamer's offerings: recognizable names and competent filmmaking yielding basically adequate entertainment.
Beckett (John David Washington) and his girlfriend April (Alicia Vikander) are on vacation in Greece when they get into a terrible accident, leaving Beckett alone and stranded in a country where he doesn't speak the language. He slowly realizes, however, that the accident was even worse than he understood — it landed him in the wrong place at a very wrong time, and he now has a target on his back because of it. As he journeys through the countryside to get to the American embassy in Athens, dodging those who would have him killed along the way, he learns about the fraught political landscape that might explain the situation in which he finds himself.
Directed by Ferdinando Cito Filomarino, a frequent collaborator of Luca Guadagnino (who produced), the film makes intelligent use of its European setting, fruitfully mining the Greek scenery for beauty as well as menace. The film's greatest gift, though, has to be the prompt separation of Washington and Vikander, two stars of astonishing beauty and an even more astonishing lack of chemistry. The excruciating first 10 minutes consist primarily of the pair supposedly being romantic, and that sequence is much harder to survive, as a viewer, than any of the threats to Beckett's mortality that follow. This is not the fault of the actors so much as it is of Kevin A. Rice's screenplay, which mercifully transitions out of flirtations and into escape mode, where everyone involved seems much more at ease, fairly quickly.
The conspiracy that Beckett gets pulled into is also pretty thin, but the thrills of watching him fight for his life are the real reason we're here anyway, and those are presented engagingly enough. There isn't much to Beckett, as a character — Vicky Krieps delivers the film's most genuine performance, as an activist he encounters — but Washington has presence to spare and carries the film with ease. It's a very physical performance, all jumping off cliffs and off trains and off parking structures, and while Beckett's continued ability to function is not entirely believable (as is standard of the genre), Washington palpably carries his many injuries, contributing effectively to the growing tension.
The film will soon be eclipsed as a credit on the rising star's growing resume, and probably just as quickly be kind of forgotten by most people who watch it. If you're looking for a new movie to put on this weekend, though, it's perfectly serviceable. Netflix is a service, after all. Grade: C