Imagine this: A huge relentless lion is out to get his revenge on humans. This is the premise of the highly visceral film Beast which stars Idris Elba, Sharlto Copley, Iyanah Halley and Leah Jeffries. It is directed by Baltasar Kormákur, who also helmed the survival adventure film Everest and action thrillers Contraband and 2 Guns.
The nomadic rogue lion hunts his victims under the cloak of midnight. His pride, the lions he is instinctively bound to protect at any cost, has been slaughtered by poachers. Alone, he now hunts the animal responsible for killing them: humans.
In Beast, Elba takes on the role of Dr. Nate Daniels who left the savannah to build a new life in the States with his wife. As a child of South Africa, he still dreams of the wild beauty of the savannah. After his wife’s death, he returns to his homeland with his two daughters Meredith (Halley) and Norah (Jeffries) to pay homage to his late wife where Nate feels life finally coming in full circle.
They are welcomed by his long-time and closest friend Martin (Copley), a biologist and ardent anti-poacher who also manages a game reserve in Africa. Martin has survived in his South African homeland by adhering to one simple tenant: humans will never outsmart nature. Now, trapped in a game reserve with only his instincts to guide them, Nate has to survive for his girls to live. If that is to happen, Meredith and Norah must learn to trust him again.
Immersing the audience in the experience of the film, director Kormákur extends the film’s terrifying experiences of the characters to the audience. “The lion is always seen from the perspective of the characters,” Kormákur says. “You always feel it coming to them. You can’t cut away. You are stuck in the shot. I knew that I wanted all the big action scenes to be done like that. That increases the suspense and the excitement of being trapped in this situation.”
All involved in the production spent a great deal of time paying attention to the dynamics of what lion would actually feel like—especially as it attacked. “Baltasar and I talked about the massive Barbary lion, which is almost extinct, as a reference,” Idris Elba says. “When this thing hits the car, you feel the car move. This is not your average lion; this lion is huge. We spend a lot of time giving the audience a sense of this lion’s scale and its power. As well, it’s an incredibly smart and calculating predator.”
It was also critical to director Kormákur to bring the realistic version of South Africa such that the it was number one on the list for filming locations. “Touching ground here and scouting in the region and seeing what South Africa’s film community could offer, we knew we made the right decision,” producer James Lopez says.
The team protected the natural environments in which they were filming. For one scene where Idris is in a watering hole, the production built an actual watering hole, so as not to disturb an existing one used by animals. The team also used actual town names and included South African cast, used dialects and filmed architecture of the villages to stay true to the story.
A Universal Pictures International film, Beast opens in local cinemas nationwide on August 24. Rated R-13 by the local censors board.