Directed by Esteban Crespo, ‘Black Beach’ attempts to be an action thriller that has a straightforward and gritty story. The film sheds light on the life of a lawyer who has a promising future but is forced to deep dive into his past when he agrees to negotiate with an old friend turned kidnapper. ‘Black Beach’ takes its name from a cruelly mythical prison in equatorial Africa of whom true atrocities are told and from which, if you are lucky enough to leave, you will never be the same person again. The film was shot in Ghana, Brussels, the Canary Islands, Toledo and Madrid.
The plot opens with Carlos (Raúl Arévalo), a senior executive at a law firm, showing him as a family man living peacefully with his now pregnant wife Susan (Melina Matthews) in Brussels. The couple just wants to make it to New York with a seven-figure salary to avoid any financial problems when their child comes into the world.
Professionally, Carlos is in the business of buying and selling companies and is about to become a partner at a large company when destiny strikes. He has connections with the most influential figures in the West African nation where he worked as a cooperator for the United States after completing his academic training. Due to his past links, he is assigned to travel to the country to negotiate the kidnapping of the engineer of an American oil company and also release some important paperwork. Carlos doesn’t have a choice. He must go because if everything goes smoothly, only then he can be a partner in the firm.
Making his way to Africa, he faces the consequences of his actions in the past. He starts solving the jigsaw puzzle, ranging from a massive party thrown by the President’s son, featuring a live giraffe and a hideout deep in the jungle to a human rights nightmare of prison and clusters of run-down tin shacks. He also gets tangled in political wrangling due to which gunmen are chasing him. He even comes face-to-face with his former lover Ale (Candela Pena) and many others from his past. The journey also proves to be a test for him as now he must choose between his personal and professional life interests because the first time he managed to leave, everything changed for him.
Raúl Arévalo as Carlos showcases an excellent performance. He perfectly embodies the trajectory of Carlos with his dark personal history. Candela Pena also seamlessly fits herself as Ale into Raul’s new assignment. Her courage and dedication in doing what she wants is remarkable. Melina Mathews does a great job as Susan, especially during the final moments where she portrays an annoyed and suffering wife. Emilio Buale has a swooping entrance as the son of the President, playing the spoiled brat to the tee.
The film tiptoes along a risky premise with admirable balance without any distracting melodrama. Though it starts as a thriller with a fairly intelligent plot and is perfectly put together, it appears a bit confused in identifying what genre it falls into. The scene where Carlos appears as the white saviour for a young black African boy also seems to be blown out of proportion. In short, the film lacks in its take on power politics and race. It feels as if the writers got confused in tackling so many elements in a single film.
Despite a few weaknesses, most of the action takes place in Africa making it both compelling and intriguing. ‘Black Beach’ has excellent action choreography and the production and cinematography of the film are good. There are some very glorious moments of thrill, especially set in the prison of Black Beach but by the time the film returns to Brussels, the screenplay starts to drag, impacting the climax that comes across as vague and unsatisfying.
‘Black Beach’ is a one-time film as it does not amount to a lasting