Directed by Ferdinando Cito Filomarino and produced by his protégé Oscar Nominated Director Luca Guadagnino (Call Me By Your Name, I Am Love), Netflix original Beckett staples itself as a convoluted thriller unable to consistently follow a theme. John David Washington is front and center, playing our main protagonist Beckett, alongside we have April (Alicia Vikander) vacationing together in Greece for a romantic getaway. Their vacation is cut short by a tragic car accident, where Beckett later finds himself suddenly caught in the middle of a political conspiracy and on the run from those who will stop at nothing to silence him.
What feels like an homage to 70s cinema, becomes an overly messy film that distances itself from realism and relies heavily on the audience’s suspension of disbelief. We begin with Washington and Vikander, engaging in an overwhelmingly forced relationship the film so desperately wants us to believe but fails miserably as these two share close to 0 chemistry on screen. As you advance further into this sluggish film, you begin questioning as to why Vikander was even written in, and along with Washington, it’s obvious this role wasn’t written for him as he delivers a somewhat flat performance that feels out of place. It also doesn’t help that the pacing is inconsistent, starting off tediously slow and racing to meet a dramatic twist to keep audiences hooked. But bad pacing also comes with development issues, as we learn almost nothing about Beckett and why we should be attached to his character.
After a minute amount of exposition scattered by forms of news clips involving political activists and ultranationalists, we are forced to follow Beckett as he makes his way through the country of Greece to seek salvation in Athens. Here we are actually met with interesting writing as the native tongue is spoken throughout, we are never given subtitles so that we are also lost with Beckett who only speaks English. Though as the film takes a step forward, it takes two steps back since Beckett is perhaps one of the luckiest people alive stumbling across many individuals who happen to also speak English. His luck never seems to run out though as he repeatedly ends up in increasingly more dire situations that would end tragically if not for the plot armor given to him, surviving an unbelievable amount of harm thrown at him. Suspension of disbelief can only be taken advantage of so much, but when a character can inexplicably escape a life or death situation on multiple occasions, it becomes evident the writers have no idea what to do with this character.
After sitting through this nearly 2-hour film, its repetitiveness begins to shed enjoyment and feel like a dumbed-down version of Andrew Davis’, The Fugitive with art house gloss. Using a rinse, wash, and repeat formula, but ultimately the illogical decisions and reasoning of our protagonist provoke audiences to rebuke this character. And while Greece remains the film’s setting, its natural beauty can only distract so many as you start to acknowledge a noticeable inconsistency within the screenplay, written by Kevin A. Rice. He doesn’t know whether to write a basic action thriller or a drama following a political controversy as its driving force. Hopping back and forth between genres, it’s difficult to pinpoint the motives behind making such a wasteful film.
Beckett delivers a bland story conjoined with the charm-free, and underdeveloped characters, its entirety turns a somewhat potentially fun film into a chore. Hoping for redeeming qualities to be introduced, director Filomarino perseveres to direct a film with such a degree of petulance. There’s a strong sense of regret lingering towards the climax, once it’s revealed there’s no real ending to redeem the campiness, and more of an ambiguous, self-proclaiming ending to further dilute the quality of this film. Its copious amount of messy writing, paired with the uninspired characters fail to meet the ambitious standards Kevin A. Rice yearned to meet. It’s almost miraculous how underwritten Beckett is as a character, after more than an hour of a rat chase, we’re given a shred of backstory to him that ironically enough, hurts the film more. With such a beautiful setting, it’s a wonder how even shots featuring the broad landscapes of Greece can feel so monotonous and subdued. And just like the cinematography, even the action scenes are filmed with a lack of urgency and excitement, rushing through the choreography and shot heartlessly.
A screenplay that ceases to surrender and instead is a time waster, wandering aimlessly around to touch points on multiple genres before ever settling down with just one idea. This mess of a film provides little to nothing, offering no redeeming moments to forgive the everlasting list of flaws flooding throughout this unrelenting film. Even John David Washington can’t save this film, as he’s given a script filled with mundane interactions failing to engage an audience seeking an intelligent screenplay. Beckett provides nothing new and marks itself as the unremarkably dull thriller. It’s not hard to see why this film has flown over the radar of many, with nothing to captivate or hook, you’re left feeling poignant as you sat through a film that never gave an attempt to articulate its thoughts.