Beckett is a political action-thriller set in modern-day Greece. Beckett (John David Washington), the main character and who the film is named after, is caught up in a Greek political conspiracy and must escape to the U.S. Embassy in Athens while avoiding deadly Greek authorities. Beckett and his girlfriend, April (Alicia Vikander), are vacationing in Greece when they get into a car crash. In the aftermath of the crash, Beckett stumbles upon a sensitive piece of information that makes him the target of local authorities. As an American in danger in a foreign land, Beckett realizes that his best option is to find sanctuary in the U.S. Embassy in Athens. The majority of the film is Beckett’s journey to the embassy while avoiding authorities and navigating through an unknown country.
The aspects of Beckett which stand out are the visuals and sound. The cinematography and score make the audience feel tense when the director, Fernando Cito Filomarino, wants them to feel tense. The cinematography makes the audience feel the danger Beckett is feeling while running away from danger. There is a nice balance in the camerawork which makes the audience feel the immediate danger when Beckett is running, but does not make the audience feel claustrophobic or nauseated.
The score helps set the tone with eerie music being used to accompany particularly tense scenes. The music crescendos when the climax of a respective scene happens. It helps convey emotion and influence how the audience should feel in each scene. The only downside is that this type of scoring sometimes lets the audience know what is happening too early. When Beckett hides and the music crescendos, the audience picks up that the bad guy has caught up to him before the bad guy appears on screen.
The scenery is gorgeous as well. The movie was filmed in Greece, so the audience is treated to some gorgeous views throughout the movie. The viewer is treated to wide open plains and forests set in front of mountain ranges as well as dense urban cities which showcase the political turmoil that the country experiences.
The acting in Beckett is decent. Although Beckett does roughly one thing throughout the film, run, John David Washington does it pretty well. The viewer feels the stress and anxiety that Beckett does whenever he is in danger and feels the temporary relief when Beckett has a minute to breathe. Washington’s performance only falters near the beginning of the movie after a particularly traumatic event. The other performance that stands out is Boyd Halbrook as Tynan, a diplomat of the U.S. Embassy. Tynan is the character who helps Beckett when Beckett arrives at the embassy towards the end of the film. After the audience has been through the arduous journey with Beckett of getting to the embassy, Tynan is the character who is there to help Beckett and gain his trust. Halbrook does a good job of getting the viewer to trust Tynan and feel that he is a positive force in Beckett’s journey.
On to the core of the film, the story. The beginning of the film is somewhat slow. The audience learns that Beckett and his girlfriend are in love and that they are vacationing in Greece which is in some political turmoil. Those are the main takeaways from the beginning of the film. The only issue is that learning those three pieces of information takes about fifteen minutes when it could have easily taken five. The beginning has a bad habit of dragging the viewer along. The story kicks off at fifteen minutes in when Beckett and April get into a car accident. After this, there is another fifteen minutes of fairly slow story progression. The issue is not that the story is slow in the beginning, it’s that the story doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. The audience doesn’t know what Beckett needs to do or why. The answer to the “what” comes at the thirty-minute mark with a strange woman and an officer who Beckett thought was an ally attempting to murder him. Now the audience has a very basic sense of what Beckett needs to do, survive.
Beckett continues running for the next fifteen minutes until he gets the idea to make his way towards the U.S. Embassy. The viewer now has a somewhat clearer idea of what Beckett needs to do, survive by reaching the U.S. Embassy. Beckett makes his way to the U.S. Embassy, avoids danger along the way, learns a little about why he is running, and, eventually, arrives at the embassy. So, he’s safe now, right? Nope. Beckett has to, you guessed it, continue running. Finally, towards the end of the film, he learns the truth and is saved by the convenient actions of others.
So, what happened in the film again? Well, Beckett stumbles upon something he wasn’t supposed to, runs a lot, and then succeeds by benefitting from a couple of coincidences. Beckett doesn’t do a lot but run. Although it may be a realistic reaction to his circumstances, it is not a very fun reaction to watch for an hour and forty-five minutes. The reasoning behind Beckett’s need to run is even more frustrating. Essentially, it involves modern Greek politics and shady dealings within said politics. Politics alone is confusing, not to mention domestic politics of foreign countries. Ultimately, Beckett is about a man who runs for the entire film because of complex socioeconomic politics of a country that Beckett just wanted to vacation in.
Aesthetically, Beckett is enjoyable to watch. The cinematography is well done, the music is eerie, and the landscape is gorgeous. However, the action of the film is too simplistic with an explanation that is too complicated. If one does want to watch Beckett, they should brush up on their modern Greek politics. Extra points are lost for naming the film after the protagonist for no apparent reason.