Beckett Synopsis: Following the death of his wife (Alicia Vikander) in Greece, Beckett (John David Washington), an American tourist, finds himself at the center of a dangerous political conspiracy – and on the run for his life.
Opposed to the action genre’s nonstop carnage, Netflix’s latest international thriller Beckett maintains a meditative tonality. Luca Guadagnino’s long-time collaborator Ferdinando Cito Filomarino crafts his directorial debut in the image of old-school conspiracy thrillers. The results have some inconsistencies, but Filomarino’s well-tempered odyssey through a grief-stricken man’s chaotic chase for redemption elicits a compelling allure.
Filomarino’s debut wears a wave of influences. The director’s patient touch incorporates Guadagnino’s withdrawn atmosphere inside the intrigue of classic Hitchcockian thrillers like North by Northwest. The film’s cadence may feel like an imitation at times, but it’s an accomplished and sincere one at that. A quiet start allows audiences to sink into Beckett’s loving relationship with April, with their crackling chemistry finding a groove before the unspeakable strikes.
Before he confronts his demons, Beckett is unknowingly upended in a country-wide scandal bursting inside Greece’s volatile political system. Filomarino fittingly ratchets up the tension through a series of refreshingly grounded setpieces. Characters routinely trip over their environment, misfire shots, and breathlessly stumble through the director’s free-flowing sequences. Paired with steady framing from cinematographer Sayombhu Mukdeeprom, the toned-down setpieces pop with genuine gravity and naturalism.
As chaos ensues around him, Beckett comes to life through John David Washington’s career-best performance. The straightforward action movie premise would set expectations for a more traditional hero, but Beckett plays more like an unlikely everyman. Washington finds sobering emotionality between the frenetic chases, toiling with loss and regrets through his subdued touch. Beckett’s emotions simmer until intimate frames push his persona past action movie norms.
It’s a fantastic opportunity for Washington’s introspective skillset, with the actors sturdy and constantly affable hold keeping viewers locked in. Supporting players Vicky Krieps, Boyd Holbrook, and Alicia Vikander also elevate in their boilerplate roles. Vikander especially makes the most out of her seldom frames as April, creating a lived-in relationship that lingers with viewers.
Beckett consistently connects, but the narrative makes for a rocky ride at times. Screenwriters Kevin A. Rice and Filomarino spice up their familiar formula with timely depictions of political revolution. It’s an engaging backdrop, but one rarely imbued with the texture and clarity necessary to leave an impact. The inconsistent subtext impacts the third act the most, which masks the film’s emotional undertones for a flat web of conspiracy thriller contrivances.
I’m unsure if Beckett will please every action fan, but viewers with patience and preference for character-driven narratives are in for a welcomed surprise.
Beckett debuts on Netflix August 13th.
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