Netflix UK film review: Beckett
John David Washington8
Ivan Radford | On 13, Aug 2021
Director: Ferdinando Cito Filomarino
Cast: John David Washington, Alicia Vikander, Boyd Holbrook, Vicky Krieps
Where to watch Beckett online in the UK: Netflix UK
Not since the hastily renamed John Carter has there been such a blandly titled film as Beckett, Netflix’s new conspiracy thriller. It gives you an idea of the slightly awkward vibe that permeates the film, as it’s unsure whether to be an out-and-out actioner or a low-key drama. Fortunately, whichever genre each scene finds itself in, they all star John David Washington.
He plays Beckett, a tourist who’s on holiday in Greece with his girlfriend, April (Alicia Vikander). When Athens fills up with protestors ahead of a political rally, they head out into the countryside, only to find their quiet getaway disrupted. One thing leads to another and Beckett ends up on the run, trying to work out why people are chasing him and trying to kill him – regardless of what side of the law they’re on.
While that might sound like a non-stop cat-and-mouse ride, Beckett is actually closer to The Bourne Identity or Anton Corbijn’s The American. It’s got Euro drama in its veins, channelling the Hitchcock and Pakula of it all into an understated atmosphere. That extends to the pacing, which starts slow and struggles to jump up a gear – it doesn’t help that Kevin A Rice’s script doesn’t give Beckett and April’s relationship much depth.
But what director Ferdinando Cito Filomarino does make convincing is the scrap for survival that ensues, with action sequences underpinned by an improvised style that suits a man who is genuinely innocent and clueless about what’s going on – from a subway pursuit to a cliff jump that’s quietly jaw-dropping.
A deceptively starry supporting cast, including an underused Vicky Krieps as an activist and Boyd Holbrook as a US embassy employee, suggest that there might be more substance to the tale, but the familiar and faintly underwhelming narrative is at its best when simply relying on the tension of its leading man in motion. Washington brings grit and heft to the underwritten role, aided by some stellar cinematography from Sayombhu Mukdeeprom (who worked on Call Me By Your Name with Filomarino) and compelling music from Ryuichi Sakamoto. The result may not know quite what it is, but there’s no doubt that Washington is the real deal.
Beckett is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £9.99 monthly subscription.