Review: 'Beckett' (2021) Dir. Ferdinando Cito Filomarino
Following a premier at the 74th Locarno Film Festival, this throwback to the political thrillers of the 1970s arrives on Netflix for a dangerous race against time mystery set in Greece...
American tourists Beckett (Washington) and his girlfriend April (Vikander) are holidaying in Greece. The two have left Athens due to political unrest and instead make plans for their own sightseeing holiday around the country.
But disaster unfolds following a car accident, with Beckett falling asleep at the wheel and waking up in a hospital bed, and learning that April was not as lucky and died in the crash. Blaming himself, Beckett simply needs to return home.
However on returning to the crash site, Beckett it fired upon by corrupt Detective Xenakis (Panos Koronis) and accomplices. With no answers and alone in a country he doesn't know, Beckett needs to survive to find out why he has been targeted for murder...
Shot across Greece, the locations are as rich and sun-kissed as expected. With a supporting cast also full of Greek talent including Panos Koronis and Lena Kitsopoulou, as well as Maria Votti and Vicky Krieps, there is evident love and appreciated for the country that Filomarino injects into everything from the style, look and even music score by Japanese composer Ryuichi Sakamoto. It's a small scale production, but feels like a huge international affair behind the cameras.
That said, the story also by Filomarino is very basic in terms of what a political thriller should be, yet doesn't maintain the suspense or drama of what we could expect from the outset. We spend more time absorbing the Greek countryside and cities more than developing real drama and plot development with Washington on the run. Being on his own for most of the film bar a few good Samaritans and a few bad guys trying to help or hinder him, there is little for Washington to do except channel as much desperation and isolation into Beckett as possible. It's a role that has also been done with better execution and material; think along the lines of Harrison Ford in Frantic.
Washington is a strong actor, that is evident, but here he never gets the chance to do much or get stuck into a real sense of urgency or danger.
Be sure not to get attached to the fleeting appearance of Alicia Vikander in her small yet important role that fuels Washington's Beckett in doing what he does. Beckett isn't an action hero, or a former intelligence operative or security guard or anything you may think that lends him to be able to use a set of skills in a foreign country. He's a normal man, an everyday tourist who is well mannered, honest and pretty much an innocent; only speared on by his will to survive and doesn't turn out to have a past that makes him invulnerable. He struggles, he suffers, he bleeds and he cries.
The story of political unrest and disruption across Athens is the backdrop to the meat of this story, but it's undercooked and never really goes into enough drama or detail to make it feel relevant. Too much time is spent with Beckett offering little in terms of exposition or plot; while that may be welcome for some, to help retain interest as a viewer, you want something to chew over and understand the greater scale of threat. It's not too hard to join the dots towards the end, but still it could have done with a little more padding and expansion on the motives, over than a simple character drama.
Don't be fooled into thinking this is a thriller in terms of John le Carré or John Grisham; it's a slow paced, character study with only a smattering of real political / government intrigue and danger. The action is also light and not as thrilling as it could be for a little more of the escapist adventure the genre can sometimes offer. Even the outcome doesn't feel something that was worth the slog to get there, and fails to make you really care about everything you've seen.
A thriller without many thrills and a small amount of political drama goes into padding out a two-hour story that simply rests solely on the shoulders of Washington.
'Beckett' is a co-production between Frenesy Film, MeMo, Rai Cinema, RT Features and Wise Pictures