Italian director Ferdinando Cito Filomarino’s sophomore film and English language debut “Beckett” draws inspiration from some of the best manhunt thrillers including “The Fugitive” with Harrison Ford and political suspense dramas like “Three Days of the Condor” with Robert Redford. Our outlaw here is not a physician with super evasive skills or a resourceful CIA analyst, just as an average lackadaisical tourist played by John David Washington whose performance makes you question whether he is the same actor who played The Protagonist in last year’s “Tenet.”
Washington is joined by two outstanding actresses who unfortunately have small roles in the film. Oscar-winner Alicia Vikander (“The Green Knight”) plays Washington’s tourist girlfriend while Vicky Krieps (“The Phantom Thread”) plays a Greek political activist. Both women deserve juicier roles but in a film like this, the attention is on the guy on the run and the people chasing him.
American couple Beckett (Washington) and April (Vikander) are on vacation in beautiful Greece. She’s outgoing and a bit daring while he’s laid-back and kind of dull. They balance each other out. There’s a scene that takes place in a touristy area of ruins where April jumps down a hill to get a better view while Beckett being the unadventurous type refuses to follow. By the end of the film, Beckett will be so outside of his comfort zone that he begins to resemble Ford’s Dr. Kimble “Fugitive” character by performing a couple of daring stunts.
Without giving the film away, I’ll just say a tragic event takes place that puts Beckett in a position where he becomes a fugitive from the local police — Greek actor Panos Koronis makes an excellent bad guy — and his only hope of staying alive is to make it to the U.S. Embassy in Athens. Wounded and out of shape (Washington gained weight for the role), Beckett becomes an example of how the average person would deal with this situation, and it’s not very pretty. Most of the time Washington resembles a wounded animal that would probably be put down. It’s something we don’t usually see in the genre and a bit jarring to watch after the actor’s action-packed performance in Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet.”
Most of the film is a cat and mouse chase as Beckett uses trains, cars, and his legs to outrun his pursuers. Of course, being the only black person in Greece (or so it seems), covered in bandages, and running with a limp, he’s an easy target. Thank goodness he runs into a couple of pollical activists including Lena (Krieps) who offer to help him after Beckett divulges that he has information on a kidnapped boy the activist group is searching for.
Luca Guadagnino, the acclaimed Italian director known for “Call Me by Your Name” and 2018’s “Suspiria” remake, is listed as the film’s producer which probably explains the caliber of the cast and the involvement of Academy Award-winning composer Ryuichi Sakamoto who delivers a haunting score that heightens the film’s suspense while raising the bar during the action sequences.
You have the best possible elements working together for this mostly B-grade thriller written by Kevin A. Rice (making his feature debut) based on a story by Filomarino who delivers his first English language feature. The film’s political angle is too vague and never gets the viewer engrossed but it’s interesting to watch Washington in average-guy mode fleeing through Greece towards the U.S. Embassy like one of the warriors trying to make it to Coney Island in Walter Hill’s 1979 film. Although, Beckett couldn’t cut it as a Warrior, think of him as a member of the low-level gang The Orphans, “We’re gonna rain on you, Warriors!” Yeah right, next.
(2 ½ stars)
Premieres today on Netflix