A desperate attempt at paying homage to those stylish 70s conspiracy thrillers falls short in replicating their greatness.
Netflix brings us a brand-new cat and mouse thriller with Tenet star John David Washington at the helm, what could go wrong? Well, a lot to be honest. It lacks that killer substance to make it a modern-day classic, or even interesting for that matter, which is a shame because on paper this sounds like a winner all day long.
Here we have Beckett (Washington) an American tourist visiting Athens with his girlfriend April (Alicia Vikander), when tragedy strikes, he is plunged into a political conspiracy that makes him a target for assassination, forcing him to go on the run and seek refuge. You could clearly tell early on what kind of style it was going for; flashy and exciting in an exotic location with a strong lead, but it was sloppy and chaotic with no real flair to it.
This is director Ferdinando Cito Filomarino’s (possibly the coolest name around) first mainstream feature film, and he had something suave in mind. It just lacked the sophistication and that debonair quality that made classics like North by Northwest or The Conversation so incredibly intense. It did have a decent cast to aid it though; Boyd Holbrook, Vicky Krieps, Michael Stuhlbarg (even if Stuhlbarg played no significant part whatsoever), as well as Washington and Vikander. I wasn’t a huge fan of the score either; it felt too dramatic and very sharp on the ears, giving it a horror vibe, which couldn’t be further from the truth.
The writing for Beckett felt strange – talk about character development – this guy went from a feeble mess who couldn’t look after himself, to a man who is fighting off numerous villains – at once – and willing to jump from buildings in a Jason Bourne style act of heroism for a child he doesn’t know. Beckett himself seemed shocked about his sudden power up.
Beckett is the tale of a man named… you guessed it. He is an American man on holiday in Athens with his girlfriend April (Vikander), the two love birds decide to take a trip away from the capital and explore a more rural part of Greece. Whilst en route to their destination, Beckett falls asleep at the wheel and crashes into a nearby house, dazed and confused, Beckett sees a woman and young child appear from the smoke before collapsing.
After recuperating in the hospital and speaking to the local police about the previous night’s escapades, Beckett goes to visit the crash site where he is then shot at by a mysterious blonde woman and a local bobby, setting the wheels in motion for this peculiar game of cat and mouse. Beckett’s aim is to make it back to Athens, heading straight to the U.S. embassy to straighten this whole thing out.
With Beckett on his way to Athens and barely escaping the clutches of the two would be assailants again, he comes across a couple of activists, Lena (Vicky Krieps) and Eleni, who inform him about the current political affairs of Athens and the warring factions involved. With Beckett seemingly caught up in this political conspiracy, he enlists the help of the two women to get him to Athens and to the embassy safely. With Beckett now on the successful route towards the haven, hoping to be saved from the corrupt officials, he will soon learn that political corruption runs deep in this story and there is much more to come.
This is the least resourceful man ever; falling into traps, useless at defending himself and takes an awful lot of punishment but keeps on going. I know he’s meant to be a regular guy, but common sense must prevail at some point. I wasn’t too sold on Washington’s acting either; overly dramatic with every emotion and stumbling around in a headwind. It probably had something to do with the poor scripting though, so Washington… you’re safe this time.
Even with everything said, the film did grow on me slightly around the midpoint, it started to come to life. There were more twists to enjoy (even if they were very predictable) and the plot started to become slightly more interesting, for it then to turn ridiculous again, over the top nonsense with slow paced action. It was just a bit nonsensical; no real rhythm or continuity, Beckett himself went from Mr. Bean to James Bond in no time at all.
It is a typical thriller story; politician’s son gets kidnapped by a rival party and a regular Joe stumbles upon the master plan and must run for their life. A bit boring, a tad played out, and not exciting enough at telling the familiar story for it to live long in the memory. It tried to be a stylish thriller, but it just wasn’t up to the task – apart from a small 30-minute section somewhere in the middle.
Beckett is available to watch on Netflix now.