Beckett is full of plenty of thrills and shocks, but its overloaded script often feels too complex for its own good.
From the makers of the critically acclaimed Call Me By Your Name and staring the ever-impressive John David Washington, Beckett seemed like it was set up for success from the start – and whilst it certainly starts off as an exciting, entertaining story clouded in mystery, the film sadly relies too heavily on its underwhelming and predictable twists to stick the landing. Unlike those retro thrillers that it’s pulling inspiration from, Beckett unfortunately never really reaches the same emotional highs due to its fairly simple narrative and overcomplicated plot points – but it’s still a consistently fun time and it’s always easy to lose yourself in the world that the film creates.
In Beckett, John David Washington’s eponymous protagonist finds himself thrust into the midst of a national conspiracy when he loses his girlfriend in a tragic car crash and stumbles across something that the local authorities would rather he forgets. What ensues is a relentless cat and mouse pursuit between Beckett and the police, as he relies on the good will of those he encounters on his journey to help him reach safety – but he soon realises that not everybody is as they seem, and that his part in this story is bigger than even he realises. It’s an encapsulating mystery from the very start, and the audience mostly shares Beckett’s panic and confusion as he blindly stumbles his way through the story. The dreamlike atmosphere that director Ferdinando Cito Filomarino creates is totally effective, and and Sayombhu Mukdeeprom’s eerie cinematography only adds to this effect. We constantly feel like we’re along for the ride, and the film’s relentless focus on Beckett’s character makes this feel even more encapsulating. But this can also work against the film sometimes, as the total fixation on Beckett leaves us with no developed side characters and a mostly predictable and one-noted narrative.
As he’s proven on several occasions now, John David Washington makes for a thoroughly compelling protagonist. His performance is relatable and grounded, without ever feeling exaggerated or over the top – which is vital when the film spends as much time as it does following his character arc. He plays Beckett with a certain numbness that perfectly fits the trauma and injury that the character undergoes in this story. But sadly, Washington’s character remains the only memorable one in the whole narrative. As great as he is, the film really begins to struggle after a while with nobody else to focus on, and no real subplots to explore. It’s clear what Beckett is trying to do – by focusing on this one central character and only giving the audience the same information that our oblivious protagonist has, the film successfully keeps us in the dark for the most part and keeps its mystery compelling. However, almost two hours of this soon becomes repetitive, and the mystery is nowhere near as incomprehensible as the film seems to present it as.
Whilst It’s easy to focus on Beckett ’s technical weaknesses, it’s also worth noting that the film is really easy to have fun with, and one that I can imagine more casual audiences will take fondly to. It’s clearly reminiscent of plenty of other classic thrillers, with Andrew Davis’ The Fugitive and Doug Liman’s The Bourne Identity being the most obvious comparisons. It’s extremely fast paced, but never really feels like it’s rushing or glossing over anything important – opting instead for an atmosphere of steadily growing panic and paranoia. Despite its rapid pacing, Beckett still contains plenty of quiet, reflective moments that allow us to learn about our protagonist and identify with him, which makes this journey interesting and engaging for the most part. As mentioned, the film also features plenty of impressive cinematography and stylish shot choices which effectively reflect Beckett’s growing panic and confused headspace as the story progresses.
Whilst Beckett’ s label as a thriller may leave some viewers disappointed by the lack of genuinely thrilling scenes, there are still plenty of well-choreographed and directed action set pieces that should please the casual viewer (even if most of them are given away in the film’s trailers). It’s a technically impressive experience, with these action sequences sporting brilliant direction and camerawork – they just don’t really have that thrill factor that plenty of other modern thrillers pride themselves on. Thankfully, the film’s visual appeal and captivating lead performance was more than enough to have me hooked throughout the entire runtime, and I admittedly enjoyed a lot of the mindlessly entertaining fight sequences.
Ultimately, Beckett might not be perfectly crafted, but it’s consistently entertaining and offers a layered story that any audience can easily lose themselves in for two exciting hours. It’s a familiar kind of escapism that, despite its overly ambitious narrative, drags you through a high-octane adventure of conspiracy, betrayal and a gradually unravelling, captivating mystery – it may try to be something that it’s not, but Beckett certainly is an entertaining ride nevertheless.
Beckett is now available to watch on Netflix.