Review by David Baldwin
Beckett (John David Washington) is an American tourist traveling through Northern Greece. After a tragic car accident, he finds himself on the run from the police and embroiled in the middle of a political conspiracy. With a language barrier and no one to turn to, Beckett must rely on himself and the kindness of strangers in order to survive.
Beckett may sound interesting on paper, but after the initial prologue, it very much devolves into watching Washington run through Northern Greece for nearly 2 hours and not much else. It takes a few turns and drops in a few thrilling moments (along with some gorgeous outdoor vistas and visuals), but it fails to keep your interest and never really feels like a cohesive picture. The conspiracy driving the film is more of a MacGuffin than anything else, and we never really get to know any of the characters or their motivations beyond the surface level. The film moves slowly, yet never stops to deliver any sense of introspection or depth. It just keeps focusing on Washington either getting injured, running or struggling to avoid dying.
While the odd and eerie score leaves a lot to be desired – specifically more tension and anxiety over literally every scene – I found it curious that Beckett avoids any sort of discussion regarding the ethics of all the strangers he meets and demands help from. The character goes through hell and has multiple bloody injuries at various points in the film. Yet, no one asks about them and a few of them actually help bandage him up. I feel like there is some unwritten subtext to each of these scenes, mainly around Beckett being an American person-of-colour and the white Greek strangers he encounters being too scared to not help out. Or maybe they all just distrust the police? It is not ever clear, and the fact that the film chooses not to caption any of the Greek dialogue makes it all the more frustrating. Should these characters really not express a whole lot more hesitation and reluctance to assist this strange individual?
Acting wise, there are no real standouts. Oscar-winner Alicia Vikander and Vicky Krieps (of Old and Phantom Thread) are both talented performers and instead of playing to their strengths, the film has them merely going through the motions in service of moving the plot forward. Boyd Holbrook puts in some effort, yet feels deliberately mysterious and underwritten. Washington fairs slightly better as he channels his famous father and brings an urgent intensity to Beckett’s struggle to stay alive and ahead of the police. He does a few of his own stunts and is front and centre for the majority of the film. Sadly though, he spends much of his time overacting or practically shrugging over the increasingly preposterous material. He is usually sharp, focused and determined in his performances – and somehow brings none of that knowledge and poise to his work here. He looks downright bored and completely uninterested. And when your lead does not care about what is happening around him, then it makes it awfully difficult to care about his journey.
Beckett is streaming on Netflix now.