How Netflix's Beckett Breaks Away from the Tenet Action Hero


Taking Your Lumps

The film I watched most recently before Beckett was Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw, a film where the stars have contracts stipulating how often they’re allowed to be hit and ensuring they’re never seen to “lose” or “look weak.” It shows. Throughout the film it is painfully apparent how well balanced the two stars are — one of them beats up six guys, the other has to beat up a really big guy. If one of them insults the other, the other has to have a zinger that matches, not outmatches, the first.

It’s enough to make one long for the days of heroes like Indiana Jones and John McClain, who despite their big money stars, spent most of their films getting the absolute crap kicked out of them. Hobbs & Shaw is a fun film with some good moments, but there’s nothing to match McClain trying to make his way around the Nakatomi Building with bare feet full of broken glass.

Beckett is in a different world from even that, however. He spends most of the film in a cast after a car accident. When he gets shot in the arm he spends the rest of the film bleeding. If he gets hit by a car he doesn’t leap to his feet or even struggle to them, he lies on the floor grunting in pain.

In the big, final climactic fight scene of Beckett, both combatants are literally lying on the floor, barely able to lift their arms up to struggle for the gun because they’re both in so much pain, and it’s as dramatic as any Iron Man vs. Hulk punch up.

Beckett also makes mistakes — sometimes really stupid mistakes. When he’s finally at the American embassy and the US agent is really obviously pumping him for information, Beckett happily and eagerly tells him everything he knows. It’s obvious to the audience he’s being interrogated, but not to Beckett, because he doesn’t know he’s in a movie, and that there’s almost half the movie still to go. He does what you or I would do in that situation.

And you might point out that it makes sense Beckett takes more of a beating than streetwise cop John McClain or Jason Statham in any given role. Beckett is just an ordinary guy.

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