Greek director Costa-Garvas’s Z (1969) is one of the finest conspiracy thrillers, one that influenced American filmmakers in later years. Greece is an apt setting for the Netflix movie Beckett, in which Hollywood actor John David Washington excels as an unwitting victim of a nebulous plot.

Vacationing in the European country with his girlfriend April (Alicia Vikander), Beckett (John David Washington) works up a sweat while climbing up to a hilltop attraction. It’s a sign of things to come – Beckett will have many more occasions to catch his breath later on.

A road accident puts Beckett in the wrong place at the wrong time. Witness to a crime he never should have seen, Beckett finds an array of people on his trail. He runs, runs and runs. Among the helpful Greeks Beckett meets along the way is activist Lena (Vicky Krieps), who is part of a popular movement led by a politician who wants to shake up the establishment.

Despite being frustratingly thin on plot and motive, the movie commands attention right from its sensual opening minutes. The crackling love between Beckett and April, shown through intimate filming and loaded exchanges, helps explain why this ordinary American is inspired to unlikely heroics.

The movie is based on a story by director Ferdinando Cito Filomarino and a screenplay by Kevin A Rice. Sayombhu Mukdeeprom, the brilliant Thai cinematographer behind Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives and Call Me By Your Name, contributes heavily to a propulsive narrative. The eerie music by Ryuichi Sakomoto boosts a 108-minute movie filled with suspense and surprise at every corner.

Barely a whodunit or even a whydunit, Beckett serves as a character study of a man on the run from something he cannot fully comprehend. Viewers too might remain in the dark in the end. But the seductive filmmaking and John David Washington’s excellent empathy-laden performance elevate this conspiracy thriller a few notches above the routine.

Beckett (2021).