Synopsis: Following a tragic car accident in Greece, Beckett, an American tourist, finds himself at the center of a dangerous political conspiracy and on the run for his life.
Stars: John David Washington, Alicia Vikander, Vicky Krieps, Boyd Holbrook, Lena Kitsopoulou, Maria Votti, Daphne Alexander, Panos Koronis
Director: Ferdinando Cito Filomarino
Running Length: 108 minutes
TMMM Score: (8.5/10)
Review: The first movie I saw in theaters after the pandemic started was Tenet, the highly anticipated Christopher Nolan film that kept getting bounced around the schedule at Warner Brothers. Nolan was determined to release it and theaters were desperate to show it to attract audiences back so they could continue to operate. After much delay, the film was released in September 2020 to moderate reviews and even more moderate business. Considering Nolan’s stature, his track record with blockbusters, and the hype leading up to the movie, this was an eye-opening gut-punch to the film industry that movie-going was not going to bounce back like they thought it would. We all know how things went after that. Theaters closed again and would open and re-open sporadically for the next several months until a vaccination was in place (Side note: get vaccinated) and some stability could be regulated. During that time, Tenet was all but forgotten.
You know what? It sort of should have been. It wasn’t that great and represented a filmmaker not reaching further than he should have but deliberately going to places that alienated audiences. For what? Purposely misdirecting, employing a horrible sound technique, and careening through a serpentine plot that required several large whiteboards to map out, the film was a mess and audiences told Nolan and the studio so with their attendance at the film. That robbed stars John David Washington and Elizabeth Debicki, both poised to break big with Tenet, from reaching that high level and while both will bounce back nicely (Debicki is playing Princess Diana in the upcoming season of The Crown) you can blame Nolan for that delay.
Watching the Netflix action film Beckett, I was struck by how much it was exactly the kind of breathless, twist-filled experience I wanted Tenet to be. An international mystery starring Washington and a cadre of interesting actors both familiar and not, it was willing to take risks but not blow off the audience in doing so. It might be frighteningly pedestrian at times (some of the reveals of the villainous “twists” are so obvious from the start the actors might as well be wearing a sign around their neck saying Bad Person) but the thrills it drums up are real and the situations it puts our central character in have the authenticity that lead you to believe it could happen to you as well if you didn’t play your cards right.
In the film written by Kevin A. Rice and director Ferdinando Cito Filomarino, Washington (Malcolm & Marie) plays the titular character, who has arrived in Greece with his girlfriend April (Alicia Vikander, Tomb Raider). When a political upheaval near their hotel gets too unruly, they retreat to the country for a few days to let things simmer down and that’s where a tragic car accident leaves Beckett alone and eventually on the run for his life when he finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong time. Seeing something he shouldn’t have but doesn’t understand, he’s pursued by a horde of unrelenting hunters who will stop at nothing to keep him silent.
The simple set-up leaves Filomarino a wide berth to stage a number of impressively tense sequences as Washington narrowly evades being caught and takes drastic measures to extricate himself from the situation. When it becomes clear that no one in authority is trustworthy, he decides to put trust only in himself and the people his gut tells him to follow, including an activist (Vicky Krieps, The Phantom Thread) whose own cause might just have a crossover with the danger Beckett is hoping to escape from.
Impressively filmed, edited, and performed, I liked this one all the way through to its closing credit sequence. Obviously made for a more big screen exhibition, Filomarino fills each frame of Beckett with a gorgeous shot of Greece, even though much of the movie isn’t exactly a thumbs up for Greek tourism. Destined to be but a blip on rising-star Washington’s acting career, I hope more people discover this one as the winter months are approaching and well-constructed action films like Beckett become harder to find in theaters.