Sean (Daniel Radcliffe) is a reluctant drug trafficker who does the wrong thing for all the right reasons. While guiding his small plane across the Mexican border Sean is involved in several dialogues, as the atmosphere of danger and despair slowly builds up around him like a cocoon. His mentally unstable wife calling him on Skype, wanting to know where he is; there is a direct line to the owner of the drugs whose voice gradually builds up from mildly threatening to an open menace; and there’s also a third party that seems to represent the force of good, but is similarly dangerous. The choices Sean is to make in the next hour will define his life forever.
The movie is shot almost entirely in the cabin of a small plane (similar to Tom Hardy’s movie LOCK which is entirely shot inside a moving vehicle). All the focus is on Daniel Radcliffe who proves that he can carry the film on his shoulders.
Radcliffe had been choosing a wide variety of roles in independent films since his Harry Potter days. It is obvious what attracted him to BEAST OF BURDEN - it’s a solo run where one either makes it or breaks it. While Radcliffe does a fine job with what’s given, the film’s engaging premise very quickly steps into the familiar territory of an abduction thriller becoming predictable. Still it’s a decent effort from the Swedish director Jesper Ganslandt, who manages with the small budget to make it look spectacular with minimum CGI and realistic props.
As indie films go BEAST OF BURDEN is not a time waster and you can get a kick out of it, especially if you like psychological thrillers with minimalistic settings. It is unfortunate, but for some movies a small budget can be a major let down. With its claustrophobic atmosphere and original premise BEAST OF BURDEN is just a few dollars short of being a fine film.