Written by Tony Gilroy of “Bourne” fame, “Beirut” is not a masterpiece that I would see again and again. My problem with the movie is how convoluted the story gets, and how some explosions and guns and dialogue can throw me off.
What makes the movie watchable is Jon Hamm, who specializes in portraying charming characters in “Mad Men,” “The Town,” and “Baby Driver.” I love watching how he morphs into character-the way he talks his way through things, the way we feel his stress and concerns, and how he survives it all.
He plays Mason Skiles, a U.S. diplomat, who lived a happy life in the 70s with his wife (Leila Bekhti) in Beirut, and treated an orphan kid named Karim like he was part of the family. He then finds out Karim is the younger brother of a terrorist, whose men invades his home, takes Karim, and kills Mason’s wife.
Now a decade later, Mason drops out of the program and becomes a drunk, but out of the blue, a man shows up, offering him a job back in Beirut. He keeps asking: “Why am I here?,” and the agents (Rosamund Pike, Dean Norris, and Shea Whigham) finally tell him that his old colleague Cal (Mark Pellegrino) has been captured by the now adult Karim (Idir Chender), who wants his brother back.
Mason has to make the negotiations, while continuing to drink his sorrows away. The main CIA agent (Pike) struggles to keep him in check. At times, he runs off based on messages or kidnapping from Karim, and when she finally gets in touch with him, he usually has something to drink.
“Beirut” lost me at times with its plot that goes from one place to the other with all the negotiations, kidnappings, and chases. Often times, it gets confusing, and other times, just routine. I’ve seen this stuff done so well in so many better movies, because they, at least, have ambition and determination. They barely rush into things, and they take their time for me to understand their concepts.
It does have its moments like the hero reuniting with Cal, his bar visits, and his chemistry with his agents and Karim. And again, Hamm saves the show with his vulnerability, charms, and ambitions. But I still wasn’t a fan of the movie.
Sorry, maybe next time.