Beirut (R)

Action/Adventure 109 min. April 11, 2018
By Alan Scherstuhl
Hollywood hasn’t known what to do with Jon Hamm since Mad Men, probably because Hollywood doesn’t make many movies about grown-ups. That’s especially true for grown-ups like the men Hamm is so adept at embodying: handsome, hyper-competent lugs whose lives are edged with doubt. Brad Anderson’s talky-smartish thriller Beirut, sets Hamm’s sharpie loose in a country — in this case a fractious Lebanon — where the rules aren’t his. A ’70s prologue establishes he’s in over his head: With glittering disingenuousness, diplomat Mason Skiles (Hamm) works a soiree only to be pulled aside and told that the refugee boy he and his wife have taken in is wanted for questioning about his terrorist brother.

The main story kicks off a decade later. Despite his distinguished career, Skiles has turned his back on international diplomacy. But he’s dragged back in: His former pal Cal Riley (Mark Pellegrino), a CIA agent, has been kidnapped in Beirut. Since he’s a Hamm character, Skiles goes reluctantly … and soused. And once he’s in the country, he only perks up after realizing that maybe he is the one to balance the many competing interests in the case — the PLO, the Israelis and U.S. intelligence.

Hamm’s not playing a super spy, here. Instead, he’s a canny negotiator, a poker-faced talker who sees more angles than anyone else does. Tony Gilroy wrote the script, splicing together elements he’s expert in: Here are the tense and savvy colloquies of Michael Clayton or Duplicity brought into the thriller world of his Bourne films. But don’t expect brawls and shootouts as Skiles navigates Lebanon's civil war. Everyone in the movie (and behind the camera) understands that the usual Hollywood gunplay would make things worse.
Brad Anderson Jon Hamm, Rosamund Pike Tony Gilroy Bleecker Street

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