Sean Haggerty (Daniel Radcliffe) is a pilot who used to fly with the U.S. Air Force, but now has been forced to make his income flying light aircraft for Mexican drugs cartels into the United States, which is what he is doing at the moment. It is night time, and the conditions are overcast and windy, but Sean has other things on his mind, such as his wife Jen (Grace Gummer) who he is talking to on his phone, trying to reassure her all will be well and he will be able to return to her so they can start their family they have planned since they fell in love. However, there are unseen dangers on the flight he has no inkling of...
The single location drama or thriller, where one character takes the lead and the lion's share of the dialogue, became an occasionally returned to subgenre with the advent of the mobile phone, where you could have your star on one set and the rest of the cast could call them and the plot would unfold that way. Phone Booth, ironically not using a mobile, was the apparent instigator of the format, then there was the Ryan Reynolds exercise Buried, but Beast of Burden appeared to be taking its cue more from the Tom Hardy driving solo showcase Locke, given Radcliffe was in a small vehicle and discussing matters over the ether with the goodies and baddies.
After that manner, this could easily have been a radio play, and indeed should you choose to watch it you might have believed it was, since director Jesper Ganslandt made the confounding decision to film the action in near-impenetrable gloom from start to finish. There were long stretches where it was barely worth your while looking at the screen, so negligent was this to creating something even borderline interesting to look at, never mind discern, and you imagine those Daniel Radcliffe completists, of whom there are a few off the back of Harry Potter, would be doubly frustrated in that they could not get a decent look at their idol when they lined this one up to watch.
So awful was the cinematography, or the lighting to be more specific, that quite often you had to take it as read that really was Radcliffe on the screen; it sounded like him, but he could have used an impersonator, or at least provided a voiceover. Not helping was the storyline, a mishmash of clichés relating to Mexican gangsters and the American D.E.A. who try to combat and ultimately stop them, having recruited Haggerty to act as informer as long as he can secure safety for himself and Jen. If this had been played out on the ground, it would not have been compelling to any greater degree, therefore in the aircraft set which was accompanied by the loud drone of the engines, you had one of the least attractive thrillers of its decade.
At one point, talking of drones, Haggerty wound down the window of the cockpit and fired a pistol at a flying drone that had pulled up alongside him, or that's what you had to assume was happening since you may have seen the gunmetal flash in the dim glow of the instrument panel, but you assuredly could not see any drone. The director did not quite have the conviction to film exclusively in the cockpit, so every so often we were offered a flashback where we got to witness how the hero wound up in this position, yet even this was not capitalised on as they were more often than not wholly superfluous to whatever was supposed to be going on in the air in current time. It's difficult to see - well, yeah, it's difficult to see, but also it's hard to understand how it was possible to mess up such a simple concept, with a bankable star, but Beast of Burden managed it with an insane dedication to self-sabotage. Absolutely baffling. Music by Tom - no, Tim Jones.
[No extras on Thunderbird's DVD, but Radcliffe fans will be curious about it.]