John David Washington plays an American on vacation in Greece who, after a tragic car accident, begins to be pursued by the authorities and he does not know why. With Alicia Vikander, Vicky Krieps and Boyd Holbrook.
A thriller of style and form that is more European than American, BECKETT It is a film that may seem conventional in its plot – or, it becomes conventional with the passing of the minutes – but that formally is very far from the rhythms and manners of the Hollywood thriller, especially in regards to the handling of the times, the action scenes and certain resources of the staging. At a certain point, Filomarino’s film –produced by Luca Guadagnino, among others– is more like certain thrillers from the 1970s, especially because of some of the connections and repercussions that what is told there has.
That the style is different from the usual one is evident in the first ten minutes of BECKETT. The film begins with a sex scene between this Beckett (John David Washington, from TENET) and his partner April (Alicia Vikander, from THE DANISH GIRL) in a hotel in Greece. For a long time we follow them as they visit ruins, eat in a restaurant, talk, joke and travel to a hotel in a town far from civilization. Everything seems very relaxed but the music suggests that something serious is going to happen, you just don’t know what. Will they kidnap her? Will they kill her? Will something inexplicable happen? Will spaceships appear?
No, none of that. Something terrible happens but little related, in principle, to a thriller: he nods and falls asleep in the car while they travel – she sleeps next to him – the car goes off the road, rolls over several times and ends up crashing into a house. Upon regaining consciousness, Beckett sees a child and a woman leaving the scene. And her seriously injured. Cut to the hospital and everything seems to be clearer: April has died from the crash and he is hospitalized and badly beaten.
The strange thing begins to happen from there since when the man goes to visit, days later, the place of the accident, he runs into a woman who begins to shoot him. And then he sees a policeman – to whom he gave his statement minutes ago – do the same. Beckett has become a hunted man and he has no idea what the motive is. And from then on, the film will narrate his constant flight trying to reach Athens –especially the United States Embassy–, escaping from who wants to kill him and trying to understand why they persecute him in that brutal way.
During the first hour, BECKETT it works almost like an existential thriller. A man is persecuted and there seem to be no reasons. It would be funny, at a certain point, if those were never known (that would give the title of the film thematic characteristics linked to the author Samuel Beckett or a lineage closer to that of Alfred Hitchcock in THE WRONG MAN), but in the second half the points begin to connect and we will only say that there is something behind this persecution linked to the tense political situation in Greece and that is shown, from the outset, when the film presents a demonstration in support to a leftist candidate in a climate of economic crisis.
In that sense, his last forty minutes are somewhat disappointing, since Filomarino’s ability for that type of story begins to crack (let’s say that the action scenes are not his strong suit) and, in turn, the script loses all mystery and it gets a little more clumsy and predictable, kind of BOURNE of low voltage, a Costa Gavras with little real political weight and a plot of spies, agents, diplomats, militants and other characters of those characteristics (Vicky Krieps, recently seen in OLD, and Boyd Holbrook of NARCOS) that are somewhat more conventional within this type of film.
In any case, BECKETT it has some elements that make it unsettling and, at least during its first half, original. In fact, at times you might think that it is all a hallucination or the effects of certain pills that he takes, since everything falls into the category of rarefied. For those who prefer less pyrotechnic thrillers than Hollywood thrillers, here you can find something more according to your tastes. Sayombhu Mukdeeprom’s photograph (MEMORIA, CALL ME BY YOUR NAME) and the music of Ryuichi Sakamoto (with some song by Blood Orange) add to that stylistic difference, make the film something more personal. But the effect is short-lived. Not even the presence of the young Washington – always intense, magnetic and concerned – manages to cover the problems that history finally gets into. It is a rare project, intriguing, but ultimately somewhat failed, which promises more than it ends up delivering.
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Online premieres: review of “Beckett”, by Ferdinando Cito Filomarino (Netflix)