Beckett rides the talents of its stacked crew to the most generic possible destination.
On paper, Beckett would seem to hold plenty of promise. Directed by Ferdinando Cito Filomarino and produced by his ex, Luca Guadagnino, the film also boasts the involvement of cinematographer Sayombhu Mukdeeprom, famous for his collaborations with Apitchapong Weerasethakul, and composer Ryuichi Sakamoto. On top of that pedigree, it has an intriguing premise (an American tourist pulled into a Greek political conspiracy) and its stars, John David Washington and Vicky Krieps, contribute to the air of prestige surrounding this film. To put it bluntly, though, Beckett doesn’t work; it doesn’t even sport the recognizable touch of its famous crewmembers. Instead, it’s a boilerplate paranoid thriller content to follow the template of much better movies. So, a perfect example of when Netflix does it wrong.
While on vacation in Greece, Beckett (Washington) crashes his car into a house, killing his girlfriend (Alicia Vikander). Though the police express relief that the house was empty at the time, Beckett swears he saw a boy, and when he returns to the accident’s scene, the police shoot at him. Beckett finds himself on the run, looking for answers and desperate to reach the American embassy, relying on the help of strangers like Lena (Krieps), an antifascist woman who knows who the mystery boy is and why his whereabouts might be covered up.
Throughout, Beckett hides from the police, who might be around every corner, and fights for his life whenever he’s found. These scenes are presented as plainly as possible, as if to ground the film in matter-of-fact realism rather than suspense. At least, that might be the rationale behind making this material as lifeless as possible, even as Beckett starts behaving more like Jason Bourne as the film reaches its conclusion. There’s little interiority to Washington’s performance and no subjectivity to the camera’s eye, making this paranoid thriller curiously lacking in paranoia, even as it checks all the boxes in the Three Days of the Condor playbook. This is not the sort of movie where the shadows are filled with danger and every stranger merits a second look, but instead a simple journey from point A to B, an inert chase that fails to establish any psychological atmosphere (if it even attempts to do so; it’s honestly hard to tell).
When Lena shows up midway through, the film introduces Greek politics into the mix — a moment before the pair meet, Beckett literally walks past graffiti that reads “antifa” — but Beckett is only as political as it is paranoid, instead using political buzzwords like window dressing. The plot Beckett is tangled up in might be the work of fascists looking to uphold austerity measures against a leftist coalition or it might be Communist sectarians, but the film doesn’t explore much further than the blank look on its protagonists’ faces. Perhaps this is the point — why should we expect an American tourist to have any clue about Greek politics? — but as it goes on, it becomes increasingly clear that the film’s politics are entirely superficial, using troubled Greek political reality as merely a theater for its half-assed thrills. That the thrills of this ostensible paranoid political thriller conclude in a conventionally satisfying manner is just further indication that no one involved understood the assignment.
You can stream Ferdinando Cito Filomarino’s Beckett on Netflix beginning on August 13.