Updated: Mar 13
The new John David Washington film is blandly devoid of creativity
John David Washington is slowly curating himself to become one of the most exciting actors working today. However, there is a fear that he is being slightly cornered to the intense and stoic roles that his father Denzel somewhat became trapped in.
Beckett (2021) takes place in Greece during the euro crisis in the early 2010s. We follow an American couple on vacation, Beckett (David Washington) and his girlfriend April (Alicia Vikander). However, after a car accident, Beckett finds himself embroiled in a national conspiracy and is on the run for his life, trying to reach the US embassy in Athens.
Beckett is directed by Luca Guadagnino’s frequent second unit director: Ferdinando Cito Filomarino. This isn’t Cito Filomarino’s first foray as the sole director, but it certainly is his most high profile. The Italian director provides Beckett with a steady if bland look that ends up working against the film. For providing second unit shots that don’t distract from the main narrative and style, Cito Filomarino has excelled, but when given the big chair, he’s somewhat become intimidated by it.
Throughout, you can’t shake off the feeling that Beckett is not trying hard enough to distinguish itself from similar films like The Fugitive (1993) or Falling Down (1993). By having such a simple premise, going from point A to point B, you give yourself room to maneuver and place emphasize other aspects aside from the plot. For films such as John Wick (2014) it was the action set pieces, for the likes of Midnight Run (1988) it’s the comedy and character development. Beckett seems to shy away from placing much emphasis anywhere. Thus, chase scenes are largely devoid of tension, character work is the bare minimum, and potential social or political commentary is confusingly shallow.
David Washington is forced to carry this entire film on his back, and he largely succeeds. With such a scantily written character, he’s left to do the heavy lifting himself. While some more close-up shots and better atmospheric directing would have helped him in portraying his character’s anguish, the American actor does enough to keep us engaged. The beginning of the film also allows us to see David Washington in a romantic role, which was incredibly refreshing and encouraging to see. Sadly, it is a miniscule portion of the film, before he’s forced to don worried eyes and a pained look. The small roles given to Vikander and Vicky Krieps (as a German political activist) are greatly enlarged and made memorable because of the actresses inhabiting them. In fact, the women are so adept with the little material they’re given, that you’d rather watch a parallel movie with their stories instead.
In the end, Beckett is a rather unimaginative and bland retooling of overwrought genre and cinematic concepts. Cito Filomarino’s lack of creative infusion makes the film have a rather forgetful aura, and yet thanks to some strong performances, it makes for acceptable content to help pass the time.