You have to admire Daniel Radcliffe. He hasn’t rested on his laurels since the Harry Potter work came to an end and continuously selects roles that are vastly different from the last.
In Beast Of Burden Sean, Daniel Radcliffe (Swiss Army Man, Harry Potter), is a former army pilot who is currently flying a single engined, rattly old plane, somewhere at night.
Whilst flying he takes calls on either a cell phone or a satellite phone. Neither phone generally has good news for him, both get worse as the film progresses.
We learn who Sean is and why he’s flying this rattly old plane, late at night, via these phone calls and the occasional flashback to before he got into the plane in the first place.
Without giving the game away, he has a package to deliver, to some very bad men, whilst also attempting to keep his wife happy and a friend on his side, who also wants a package from him.
Sean is caught in the middle, seemingly no-way out, particularly when his wife Jen, Grace Gummer (Mr. Robot (TV), Frances Ha) winds up becoming involved. His options are limited and only get smaller as he pushes on towards his final destination.
Beast Of Burden is very, very similar to the Tom Hardy starring, Locke. In that, Hardy was driving a car from one end of the country to the other and we learnt about him and his situation through various calls he takes on his journey.
Beast Of Burden follows the same path only Radcliffe is in a plane and the stakes are higher. However, whereas Locke manages to keep you guessing, has you on edge, piques your interest, Beast Of Burden doesn’t quite manage it.
There are some shocking continuity errors that keep cropping up (keep an eye on Radcliffe’s mobile phone headphones) and Radcliffe, despite being a former army man, seems devoid of any practical or tactical ability whatsoever.
Then there’s the performances. When the large majority of your film is focussed on one man, in a plane, you’d better give him some good lines, something meaty to go on. Sadly, writer Adam Hoelzel (Amelia’s Canon (Short), By The Rivers Of Babylon), fails to deliver leaving director Jesper Ganslandt (Blondie, The Ape) with nothing to do but make some quick cuts…of a man sitting at the controls of a small plane.
Radcliffe meanwhile does his best to make us feel for Sean, but we don’t learn enough about why he’s doing what he’s doing, why was this his only option? The more we learn, the more ‘why’s’ begin to arise and that’s just frustrating.
Then you get to the end of the film, if indeed you stick with it this long, and what little credibility was left unravels and we enter cliché city as this former army man, keep that bit in mind, manages to completely screw up taking someone down.
This is despite, whilst flying a small, single-engined plane, at night, in seemingly strong winds and rain, he takes out a drone with a pistol, but can’t shoot a man a few feet away from him with the same weapon.
With Beast Of Burden, Radcliffe has chosen to star in something that, whilst placing him front and centre, giving him the ability to really show his acting chops, just doesn’t have the script to enable him to do that. It’s a shame. I guess you can’t win them all.