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The Ending of ‘Beckett’ Explained

John David Washington’s latest protagonist boldly confronts grief and guilt.
Beckett Ending Netflix Washington Vikander
By  · Published on August 13th, 2021

Ending Explained is a recurring series in which we explore the finales, secrets, and themes of interesting movies and shows, both new and old. This time, we consider the ending of the Netflix Original movie Beckett. Yes, prepare for spoilers.

We all have our bad vacation stories. Maybe on one trip, the airline delayed your flight a few times too many. Maybe you went to Hawaii and it rained the whole time. But regardless of how gruesome your personal horror story is, no one has had a worse vacation than the main character in Ferdinando Cito Filomarino’s Beckett.

The Netflix Original opens on the titular protagonist (John David Washington) and his girlfriend, April (Alicia Vikander), enjoying a romantic getaway in the Greek countryside. Things go terribly awry when they get in a catastrophic car accident that kills April and leaves Beckett injured. After their car tumbles off the side of a winding road, it smashes through the side of a cottage, where Beckett sees a young boy accompanied by a woman (Lena Kitsopoulou).

The boy turns out to be the nephew of a controversial politician who had been kidnapped as an act of protest. Because he has now laid eyes on the boy, Beckett suddenly becomes the subject of an epic, ruthless manhunt. The remainder of the movie follows him struggling to reach the American embassy in Greece in order to obtain safety and clear his name. While also attempting to evade being murdered by the dozens of people who have a gun pointed at him at every turn (easier said than done). And understand why he, a mere tourist from Ohio, has suddenly become Greece’s most wanted man.

The Ending of Beckett

After almost two hours, during the ending of the movie, Beckett manages to untangle himself from his Hitchcockian hell. At least sort of. He ends up murdering a couple of the bad guys who were out to get him and is finally safe in the company of Lena (Vicky Krieps), a compassionate German activist. To put the icing on the happy-ending cake, he hears a thudding sound from the trunk of the car of the guy he just killed. Which turns out to be — that’s right — the kidnapped kid.

But Beckett isn’t exactly jumping for joy at this moment. As Lena embraces him in relief, he begins to cry. “I should have died,” he says twice. And then the movie ends. Cheery, I know.

Beckett’s story is essentially a collection of worst-case scenarios. His girlfriend dies. He is hunted by armed political henchmen. When he gets to the American Embassy, even the people he expected to help turn against him. You start to wonder whether Beckett is simply the most unlucky man to ever have existed, or if there’s something else at play.

Multiple Interpretations

Indeed, there are multiple ways of looking at the ending of Beckett. On the one hand — the more obvious hand — the movie is a political thriller to be taken at literal value. Beckett is caught up in an outrageous conspiracy. He fights back against those who are hunting him. And ultimately, he wins by a tremendous stroke of luck.

But perhaps the ending isn’t meant to be taken that literally. One clue that might tip a viewer off in the non-literal direction is the moment when Beckett visits the site of April’s death and takes one of her giant sleeping pills. The movie never revisits or explains this moment. And because Beckett takes the shape of such a deranged and overexaggerated nightmare, the theory that Beckett is hallucinating the whole thing on a high dose of Ambien isn’t too far-fetched.

The Best Explanation

But the correct interpretation — my personal favorite — could be even less literal than the aforementioned option. Recall Beckett’s final utterances at the very ending of the movie: “I should have died. I should have died.” This abrupt and sharply morose ending pushes our protagonist’s overwhelming sensation of guilt to the forefront. After all, the car crash that killed his girlfriend happened because Beckett fell asleep at the wheel.

Guilt is a complicated emotion. It causes people to put a heavy burden of blame on their shoulders. And this feeling often ends up consuming their daily life. In Beckett’s case, he very well could have internalized his guilt regarding April’s death. And, during the movie, he is projecting it outward. This might have caused him to become intensely paranoid, imagining himself ripe with blame to every passerby. He believes everyone is pointing a gun at him because, in his mind, that is exactly what he deserves. A complicated, violent political conspiracy, then, becomes a suitable allegory for oppressive shame.

But whatever the ending of Beckett really means — whether it’s with our protagonist coming off of a hallucinogenic trip, confronting an allegory for guilt, or really digesting the aftermath of having been at the wrong side of a massive manhunt — it is clear that this is not simply a cat-and-mouse romp or a movie about sketchy political schemes. It is ultimately a movie about the magnitude of grief, and ultimately how to find your way back from it.

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Aurora Amidon spends her days running the Great Expectations column and trying to convince people that Hostel II is one of the best movies of all time. Read her mostly embarrassing tweets here: @aurora_amidon.