The setup for Ferdinando Cito Filomarino’s Netflix thriller, Beckett, is enticing, even enthralling. Beckett (Principle and Malcolm & Marie star John David Washington) wakes up in bed, draped over his girlfriend April (Alicia Vikander). They enjoy their vacation in Athens, visiting the stony ruins and misty mountains that dot the exotic locations. But they hear a rumor of an upcoming protest that will darken their sunny spot. On his way to another quieter resort in the mountains, Beckett falls asleep, crashing his car into a house. Beckett comes out of the accident with a broken arm, but April dies.
Beckett bites more than it can chew. After the accident, Beckett tells police he saw a red-haired child in the house he collided with. He doesn’t know it, but this kid’s face is plastered all over Greece. He is the kidnapped nephew of leftist politician Karras (Yorgos Pirassopoulos), who is building a coalition to overturn austerity measures imposed on Greece by the European Union. His strategy displeased the far-right fascists in the country. However, the film never reveals anything else about these opposing sides, which keeps viewers at bay, unable to fully engage in the film’s larger political conflict.
Beckett is the first English film by the Italian director. He draws an unwitting protagonist into Greece’s internal political conflict, sending him on the run from two homicidal and anonymous people (Panos Koronis and Lena Kitsopoulou) posing as cops. Kevin A. Rice’s screenplay follows in the footsteps of similar false-man stories: that of Alfred Hitchcock The 39 steps, Andrew Davis’ The fugitive, and so on – stories of people being forced to go on the run after being drawn into bigger conspiracies. This film, unfortunately, does not live up to the quality of its influences. by Filomarino Beckett lack of urgency, of spirit and of a main actor capable of bringing together his subscribed themes.
Rice’s script is bloated, but underdeveloped as he tries to balance Beckett’s grief with his struggle for survival. At every turn, he cries at the thought of his deceased girlfriend. But the film barely spends installation time with either, save for their fleeting visits. And Beckett doesn’t share any memories of her to inform viewers of her loss. He focuses on the chase by the fake cops, who hope to fix Beckett’s problem before he can reach the US Embassy, where US Agent Tynan (Boyd Holbrook) is waiting for him. The obstacles these assassins pose don’t fully capture the attention, as Beckett passes them too easily.
Worse yet, the character as he’s scripted is one-dimensional, which doesn’t give Washington much. But Washington is not contributing much either. He is eclipsed by his co-stars, flat and devoid of any charisma. Vikander only appears in the opening minutes of the film. During that brief span of time, she’s a much more generous stage partner than her counterpart, offering sneaky looks and maneuvering Washington’s cement block in emotions. Not only does Beckett miss her when she’s gone, but the audience may miss her presence as well.
Vicky Krieps (Phantom wire) while Lena, one of the two leftist activists helping Beckett at the US Embassy, also outshines Washington. Krieps’ emotional face offers a sense of warmth that the script can’t. The film gives up next to nothing of her endorsed character, but she does make visible her years of fighting for change, and her empathy for Beckett, a man she just met, is written all over her face. Washington struggles to pull a similar range into his character. You need charisma to pull off a fake man thriller, a reason to support the good guy beyond the narrative that we should. Washington doesn’t have that.
And he never did. He looks physically lost, as if he never had a camera pointed at him. (To see Principle.) Whenever he cries, he has a habit, seen in Malcolm & Marie, to roll his eyes in his head to find the tears. And his blank gaze does not draw viewers into his world view. (To see Principle Again. Or not.) It leaves the viewer at a perpetual distance, always watching them react instead of inhabiting their emotions. All these loopholes come back to bite him here.
While the lead actor is expected to bear the brunt of the blame when a movie lacks charisma or personal appeal – especially a bad man movie – it would be unfair to blame Washington alone for this dud. Beckett escapes his pursuers through steep cliffs, a graffiti-painted train, and into the trunk of a car. But all of these settings feel like they were captured in a hurry, and they don’t maximize the intrigue inherent in their surroundings. Why put a movie in Greece if you want to make it look exotic so generic? Filomarino doesn’t need to show any tourist traps, but he also doesn’t find an interesting hole in the wall. Even the extras are not exciting and seem disengaged. Washington, a black man, runs through the streets in handcuffs, but no one blinks.
Sometimes it feels like Filomarino wants to bring the breed into history. But the villains’ intentions aren’t just mysterious, they’re hopelessly opaque. The Greek dialogue is not translated in the subtitles, so when the villains discuss Beckett, we don’t know how they describe him. However, at different times we hear his pursuers screaming in the crowd that they are looking for a black man. When Beckett arrives at the American Embassy, he sees a photo of Obama. It’s as if Filomarino knows the subtext of an African American being pursued in a foreign country by the police, but doesn’t have the narrative or visual vocabulary to unravel his intentions.
The only Beckett Composer Ryuichi Sakamoto (The last emperor and Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence), whose howling strings and quirky combination of cymbals and toms create anxiety. The other moving parts are too poor to maintain the desired suspense, to the point where even a protest has turned ugly and Beckett leaping out of a building to stop a moving car is not enough to resuscitate the film. BeckettThe lead actor in is a boring artist who weaves a duller web, and he’s the wrong man to deliver this flawed, unruly plot.
Beckett debuts on Netflix on August 13.