Review: Beirut

7 10

Originally reviewed at Sundance 2018. 

PLOT: Ten years after losing his wife in a terrorist attack, a conflict resolution specialist (Jon Hamm) is called back to his former post in Beirut to assist in negotiations when a CIA agent is kidnapped by a splinter cell.

REVIEW: BEIRUT is the kind of movie that, had it been made twenty years ago, no one would have thought it was all that special. It would have been considered a solid thriller, made some cash, and that would have been that. But, in a marketplace increasingly dominated by tent-pole, four-quadrant blockbusters and wannabes, an adult-thriller such as this is a rare thing, and should be considered a treat for fans of serious fare.

When movies like this are made nowadays, they tend to be put up as awards bait, but BEIRUT isn’t that kind of thing. It’s more of a popcorn film, with enough thrills to entertain the savvy adult audience it's going for, while also working as a smarter-than-average film thanks to Tony Gilroy’s slick screenplay, which has apparently sat un-produced since 1991.

It’s a good vehicle for both its director and star. Ever since THE MACHINIST, Brad Anderson’s been an impressive craftsman, and this gives him the opportunity to branch out, making a seventies-eighties style thriller in the vein of something like MARATHON MAN. As a straight lead, Jon Hamm’s always felt like a throwback, and this gives him the kind of part someone like Roy Schieder might have played had this been made when the film is actually set - 1982.

Hamm gives it his all, being convincing as the silver-tongued hotshot gone to seed. It’s not too far a cry from Don Draper, although here, his widowed diplomat is more openly vulnerable and just as prone to screwing up as he is at succeeding. While making him an alcoholic is a little typical of the genre, Hamm goes all in, and also gives him a sense of empathy - something that helps to shade the relationship between him and the marginal baddie, a young terrorist named Karim (Idir Chender), with whom he shares some history.

A dialogue driven film, where fraught negotiations replace shootouts, the supporting cast is also top-notch. Led by Rosamund Pike as a CIA agent hoping to rescue Mark Pellegrino’s seemingly-doomed operative, who her higher ups view as collateral damage, and an unrecognizable Dean Norris (wearing a decent wig) and Shea Whigham as the CIA suits hoping to spin things to their advantage, while character actor Larry Pine has a nice part as the U.S ambassador, frustrated by their wheeling and dealing.

Moving along at a fast-pace BEIRUT is reasonably thrilling, with some unexpected twists and a nice sense of atmosphere, with Morocco standing in be Beirut. While it has some corny character beats, such as the obligatory scene where the alcoholic pours bottles of booze down the sink, BEIRUT is a good mid-level thriller. That’s enough to make it a must-see, as those never get made anymore. Hopefully it’ll allow Hamm to keep making movies in this genre, as it’s the kind of film a solid leading man like him is made for.

Source: JoBlo.com



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