I’ve been attempting to avoid Netflix’s unending cache of new original films, many often not even afforded the “official” status of earning an MPAA rating. Nevertheless, I couldn’t resist a conspiracy yarn starring John David Washington and Alicia Vikander, even if it was from an unfamiliar filmmaker and seemed destined to bore based on a plot revolving around obscure political machinations in Greece. Somehow, between Washington’s intensely physical performance (something he’s becoming known for) and unexpectedly emotional and relevant political stakes at play, Beckett winds up becoming a robust, involving slice of old-fashioned filmmaking and thrilling derring-do. A few of Washington’s stunts alone are something you don’t see anymore in modern filmmaking, and that level of commitment is sorely missing from today’s action stars, save a Cruise or Charlize. Though the film could’ve used more interesting characters for Beckett to meet along his journey, and a much better title too, Beckett is better than you might expect. There’s nothing more powerful in cinema than a likable character caught in a terrible situation. Such scenarios tap into our greatest impulses, our deepest empathies. John David Washington’s chaotic, dramatic quest from clueless tourist to radicalized activist is a compelling, relatable journey. He only wishes to go home, to properly grieve for what has happened to him, and yet the powers that be are conspiring to murder him for what he’s seen. Forceful tactics often radicalize even the most ignorant among us, and right-wing elements in Greece force Beckett to become involved, no matter the seeming irrelevance of local politics to his own life. As it turns out, for Becket and for us, the politics aren’t so irrelevant after all. By the end of his journey, he can’t help but weep, and we can’t either.
P.S. Boyd Holbrook is officially typecast as good-looking government spooks who can’t be trusted.