Projections - Movie Reviews
With Jim Sabatini


Beirut

Beirut
Starring:
Jon Hamm, Marjorie Prime, Mark Pellegrino, and Rosamund Pike


Rated: R for language, some violence and a brief nude image.
Reviewed by: Jim  
Release date:   April 11, 2018 Released by: Bleecker Street Media

Brad Anderson (The Machinist, Transsiberian) finally brings to the silver screen a very long gestating script from Tony Gilroy (Duplicity, Michael Clayton) without having it feel like cinematic leftovers that chugs along pretty well.

His Beirut is a dark and shadowy espionage tale that offers a decent leading role for 'Mad Men' alum Jon Hamm (excelling of late in films like Baby Driver and Marjorie Prime) in moving from the early 1970s to, mainly, the early 1980s.

Once known for its attractively pleasing nightlife, Lebanon's capital city turned more turbulent with the arrival of the Palestine Liberation Organization and later the Hezbollah. Hamm's U.S. diplomat Mason Skiles was at the embassy when the downward spiral began and ten difficult years later unenthusiastically returns.

Long before its barrenness Skiles and his wife were in the midst of adopting an early teenage war orphan, Karim. But the couple dosen't know about the true identity of the bedraggled boy — he's the younger brother of Munich insurgent Abu Rajal. His sadistic sect grab the kid before the Mossad (Israeli intelligence) can during a Skiles evening party with calamitous results that Anderson stages well enough with gratuitous restraint.

The reason for Mason's reappearance is his former CIA operative colleague Cal Riley (Mark Pellegrino of National Treasure, Capote) being abducted by young adult Karim. Karim desires his former father figure to negotiate a deal to swap Riley for his captive sibling Rajal, though the CIA and perhaps the Israelis aren't behind it.

On the surface Beirut may appear to attract an audience like the auspicious Argo did, but it has a different, arguably less intriguing deceptive agenda on its mind than the Tony Mendez milieu. A decently modish production includes the use of CGI and a Morocco shoot allowing for plenty of  observation of a ruinous, if atmospheric municipality, perhaps more reminiscent of dramas involving political upheaval. Like ones from a John LeCarre page-turner or set in Indonesia starring Mel Gibson and directed by Peter Weir.

The forecast from the incipient civil war witnessed is even bleaker now where contemptibly wretched is concerned. So, Anderson handles an array of characters in this environment with the kind of disenchantment that suits in particular the world-weary, besotted Skiles, endowed with social outcast gravitas by Hamm.

While Pellegrino displays enough steely pragmatism, Rosamund Pike (A United Kingdom, Hostiles, Gone Girl) has more of a studied air about her more straight-on ward of an undercover field agent helping to secure the operation and Mason's safety. In the end, an aura of equivocal incentive may not provide enough excitement or intrigue to go along with the conflict even if this international yarn treads veritably enough through its gloomy waters.

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