Film: Beckett

August 30, 2021

Conspiracy thrillers are tricky business in a post-truth world, but as these things go, Netflix’s Beckett (2021) is a good one, successfully porting the paranoia-fueled vibe of seventies classics into our muddier, more ambiguous times. Beckett (an excellent John David Washington) is vacationing in the mountains of Greece when a tragic car accident casts him into a baffling, terrifying political conspiracy. After reporting the experience to local authorities, he returns to the scene of the accident in a daze only to find himself targeted for assassination by corrupt police. Fleeing, he traverses the remote Greek countryside on his way back to Athens, along the way chipping away at the mystery that has thrown his life into peril.

Aside from its lackluster title, Beckett is an tight, effective film, and while I’ve seen it accused of having a thin, simplistic story, I tend to disagree — it’s just one of those movies that lets action and visual storytelling do the work. As such, the film is highly dependent on Washington’s centering performance, a dauntingly physical one that frequently pits him against baffling unseen forces that go unexplained. Washington is more than up to the task, and while there is one unlikely bit of derring-do near the finale that rings false, for the most part Beckett’s bruised, battered adventure is refreshingly devoid of phony heroics. In its quiet way, it’s a story of guilt and complicity, tying Beckett’s personal struggles as an American abroad with the broader political unrest in the region. Supporting Washington’s performance most notably are the always excellent Alicia Vikander, a suitably slick Boyd Holbrook, and Vicky Krieps, who makes a fine impression as a European activist who comes to Beckett’s aid. Overall, a pretty satisfying modern thriller in the vein of Alan J. Pakula’s classic The Parallax View.