'Beast': Why it's more than just a 'monster' movie

Watch: Beast director Baltasar Kormákur discusses his new movie

Baltasar Kormákur has a reputation for survival movies, pitting his actors against the natural world. In Everest, it was the mightiest mountain the world, in Adrift it was the Pacific Ocean.

But in Beast, his hero comes up against a relentless enemy with four legs — a giant, rogue lion — and the director sees it as much more than just an old fashioned monster movie.

The film stars Luther’s Idris Elba as a recently widowed father on holiday with his daughters on a South African game reserve.

Read more: Idris Elba's daughter auditioned to play his daughter in Beast

After poachers kill a group of lions, the lone survivor is an enormous male, which starts attacking every human it sees, including Elba and his family. It pursues them mercilessly, eventually leading to a one-on-one showdown between man and beast.

Idris Elba as Dr. Nate Samuels in Beast, directed by Baltasar Kormákur.
Idris Elba as Dr Nate Samuels in Beast, directed by Baltasar Kormákur. (Universal Pictures)

Talking to Yahoo ahead of the film’s release, Kormakur agreed that the story has some traditional elements.

“We’re seeing real animals," he explains, "not something from space or created in a lab, for instance. It’s a lion taken from nature, but in some ways is created by poachers who have been taking the lions away.”

However, the way it’s been made is far from old fashioned. Especially when it comes to the camerawork.

“We used a lot of long takes which creates an atmosphere – it’s claustrophobic and tense,” he explains. “It creates the feeling that you are on this journey with those people and you’re experiencing the good and bad of it. And it’s shot on location in Africa so you get a sense of the real place.”

Director Baltasar Kormákur on the set of Beast.
Director Baltasar Kormákur on the set of Beast. (Universal Pictures)

That location posed a number of challenges in its own right, from extreme heat during the day and plunging temperatures at night. But there were times when Kormakur favoured a more confined setting to increase the pressure on his characters and the audience alike, so a lot of the scenes took place within the confines of a Jeep.

“It created an atmosphere, and obstacles like that are a gift to a filmmaker,” he said.

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“It’s very tempting to put the camera outside and just film, but I wanted to stay inside the car and shoot from there. I wanted to create a feeling of claustrophobia, so we needed to create three or four cars with open sides and all kinds of other things because, technically, it was very challenging.

"That’s why we make films – because we want to be challenged.”

Alongside Idris Elba, Beast also stars Sharlto Copley, Leah Jeffries and Iyana Halley.

Beast is released in UK cinemas on Friday, 26 August. Watch a clip below.