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Beirut (2018) - Movie Review

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Beirut (2018) - Movie Review

Movie Review

3 starsJust how dangerous was the city of Beirut back in 1982? Dangerous enough that hotel guests were often asked (somewhat) in jest, “Artillery side or car-bomb side?” when checking in for a stay in the civil-war-ravaged city. By the early ‘80s, the city had become a shell of its once-thriving self due to religious fighting and sectarian violence at the hands of Muslims, Christians, and Jews. Described decades earlier as the “Paris of the Middle East” and frequented by famous dignitaries and the Hollywood jet-set, the city had become a no-go zone.

But it wasn’t always that way as we see in the taut political action thriller Beirut which we join in 1972 when Mason Skiles (Jon Hamm) is flying high as an in-demand American diplomat living the good life brokering international deals and negotiating the tough waters of high stakes politics. He lives with his wife and 13-year-old Lebanese orphan Karim (Yoau Saian Rosenberg) in a palatial Beirut estate when one day the bliss is disrupted by the kidnapping of Skiles’ best-friend and CIA Agent Cal Riley (Mark Pellegrino). Skiles’ life will change for the worse when, soon after, he is beset by another personal tragedy before the country descends into more than fifteen years of death and destruction.

"just dirty, edgy, and grimy enough to overcome its flaws and weaknesses."

 Flash forward ten years: when not staring through the bottom of an empty whiskey glass, Skiles is now a stateside grunt negotiator for petty union contract disputes. Now a widower and heavy drinker, he skirts from Boston hotel room to hotel room before answering the call for one last job for which he is summoned back to Beirut to help negotiate Riley’s release.

Under-utilized in Hollywood, Hamm has been quite good of late with this type of multi-faceted character that expertly walks the fine line between semi-reputable and total sleazeball. He did it in last year’s Baby Driver, and in Beirut, his Stiles is a broken man in need of redemption. Hamm instills in his character a very likable sense of sincerity. And we buy into it. Stiles takes full advantage of being underestimated by his peers, which allows him to always be one step ahead of his adversaries as well as his handlers.

This is where things begin to get not only dangerous for all involved, but also quite complicated, as the entanglement of US government agencies, Mossad, the PLO, CIA operatives, and handfuls of other bad actors becomes overwhelming. But director Brad Anderson handles it all with great skill as he seamlessly navigates us through the myriad red herrings, double-crosses, and plot twists that highlight the complexities of the place and time.

Having penned the initial Bourne trilogy, 2007’s Michael Clayton, and of course Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Beirut screenwriter Tony Gilroy is certainly not afraid to get down and dirty with the intricate minutiae and the detailed machinations of complex stories. But he never loses us. In addition, his sharp sense of character and whip-smart dialogue feel perfectly at home against the backdrop of political dysfunction and wonton loss of life. Together, he and Anderson have managed to wring captivating mystery, adventure, and danger from a genre in bad need of resuscitation. In the hands of Anderson and Gilroy, Beirut is just dirty, edgy, and grimy enough to overcome its flaws and weaknesses.

If there’s anything to knock in Beirut, it would be that the filmmakers fail to render native characters – specifically Lebanese – as anything other than savage terrorists or hapless victims. There’s a palpable irony that comes from a bunch of white men who plan, plot and conspire high level acts of violence and retribution in a film named Beirut. Then again, perhaps that is Anderson’s point. In that part of the world at that specific point in time, no one ever looked good – not the PLO, not the Israelis, and not even the U.S. State Department. The one living being to crawl out from under the rubble of lies, distrust, deception, and destruction was Mason Skiles - the only person with the understanding that in the modern world, we all must leave a bigger something on the table to ideally get a little of what we want.


Film Details

Beirut (2018) - Movie Review

MPAA Rating: R for language, some violence and a brief nude image.
Runtime: 109 mins
Director: Brad Anderson
Writer: Tony Gilroy
Cast: Rosamund Pike, Jon Hamm, Mark Pellegrino
Genre: Drama | Thriller
Tagline: Beirut: 1982 - The Paris of the Middle East Was Burning
Memorable Movie Quote: "He's damaged goods. But he's manageable."
Theatrical Distributor: Bleeker Street
Official Site: Release Date: April 11, 2018
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date: No details available.
Synopsis: Caught in the crossfires of civil war, CIA operatives (Rosamund Pike, Dean Norris) must send a former U.S. diplomat (Jon Hamm) to Beirut to negotiate for the life of a friend he left behind.


Blu-ray Review

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Beirut (2018) - Movie Review

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