Directed by Ferdinando Cito Filomarino.
Starring John David Washington, Alicia Vikander, Vicky Krieps, Boyd Holbrook, Daphne Alexander, Panos Koronis, Leonardo Thimo, Yorgos Pirpassopoulos, Marc Marder, Andreas Marianos, and Maria Votti.
Following a tragic car accident in Greece, Beckett, an American tourist, finds himself at the center of a dangerous political conspiracy and on the run for his life.
Beckett‘s opening 10 minutes or so contains quite a few strange scenes and dialogue exchanges that feel like they could somehow wind up as clues in the grander Greek conspiracy that comes to the forefront. It depicts the eponymous Beckett (played by John David Washington, who plays the role like he is stuck inside a variation of Tenet) and his romantic partner April (Alicia Vikander, trying to make the most of limited screen time in arguably one of the most pointless roles of her career, which is a shame coming off such striking work also with a tiny amount of screen time in the recently released The Green Knight) touring Greece and taking in the sights.
There’s random information about Greek mythology (notably, the Oracle of Zeus), the pair observe strangers and make up the backstory to what brought them on vacation (most of April’s scenarios tend to be imaginatively sleazy, which Beckett finds amusing), and some locals inform them of an incoming radical protest that will be congesting the public space while encouraging them to sleep in a different hotel. Beckett and April don’t set out until late at night, but after a quick phone call by April to ensure that the room is still available, they appear to be on track to make it there in time to check into the room. At least, that is until both of them become sleepy with Beckett losing control of the car, swerving off of the road and down a hill landing inside of a house where an injured Beckett observes a mysterious woman and teenage boy off in the distance before they leave.
From here, there are all sorts of questions, with the main one being if Beckett was drugged. That inquiry takes precedence because, and I don’t know about you, but the thought of a thriller being set in motion by someone accidentally swerving off a cliff while on vacation is preposterously silly and hard to take seriously, especially when it results in the death of the protagonist’s love interest. It’s possible Ambien was involved, so there is that, but for the most part, it’s pretty comical how practically nothing in the setup matters. It’s a means to fridge the main character’s love interest, giving him a little more motivation when eventually getting caught up in a deadly political game.
Nevertheless, after waking up in a local hospital, doctors explain to Beckett (with a combination of vague rhetoric and a language barrier) that April did not make it and her body will be sent home. A few days later, Beckett decides to check out the crash site before leaving, which is where he encounters an armed woman shooting first, and some crooked cops that are just as trigger-happy. What follows is a series of chases and evasive maneuvers with some stealth thrown in for good measure, as Beckett also comes across a pair of left-wing activists played by Vicki Krieps and Maria Votti) who are able to fill the character and us in on the ongoing political strife within Greece. Without going too much into detail, nationalists have kidnapped a politician’s son as retaliation for some progressive play he is going to make if he is elected (it’s not explained, serving as another element that doesn’t matter), and that the individuals trying to kill him represent that same terrorist group.
Directed by Ferdinando Cito Filomarino (a frequent collaborator of Luca Guadagnino, crafting a directorial debut here based on his own story with a script by Kevin A. Rice), it’s fine to build Beckett, both as a film and character, with minimalistic qualities and bare-bones storytelling emphasizing the thrills and urgent journey to safety (Beckett is trying to get to the US Embassy as fast as possible where an official played by Boyd Holbrook can hopefully offer answers and solutions). John David Washington also proves to be a good acting choice, appropriately putting on a clumsy and helpless physical performance (he’s constantly tripping or falling in believable ways while struggling in hand-to-hand combat), but there’s only so far a blank slate character can carry what is uninvolving political conspiracy drama with low-level excitement.
It’s actually surprising how straightforward Beckett is played (the few turns the story takes here are also somewhat predictable). However, to its credit, there is a sense of terrifying isolation watching a man run around Greece, unable to understand the language (the fact that there are no subtitles should allow viewers to relate), trying to piece together why he’s wanted dead and what the politicians are doing. It’s also only concerned with exploring those elements at face value without even bothering to flesh them out. Aside from a few strong action beats during the finale (there’s a tremendously perfect here), it also means most of Beckett is a drag to watch. Originally, Beckett was going to be titled Born to be Murdered (an infinitely more tantalizing title capable of generating intrigue) before Netflix bought the distribution rights, presumably changing the name to the identity of its bland protagonist as a way of acknowledging the boring piece they just purchased.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com