Jon Hamm was someone to watch in the television hit "Mad Men," but he was always so much bigger than that, and now finds his worth in carrying a full length feature film.
He's at the center of "Beirut," a taut thriller by Tony Gilroy (who wrote three of the Jason Bourne films and wrote and directed the movie "Michael Clayton.") Hamm plays Mason Skiles, who we first meet living in 1972 in Beirut as a U.S. Diplomat. He and his wife, Nadia, (Leila Bekhti) have taken in an orphan, and it turns out that the kid isn't alone in the world – he has a brother, a bad guy who is a known Palestinian terrorist.
There are some consequences to their parenthood of the refugee. Flash ahead 10 years later, and Skiles is in Boston, working as a labor mediator. He's going to be off to Beirut again, and we find out the reason why. Gilroy gives the task to Rosamund Pike, whose character Sandy Crowder works for the U.S. Embassy, and who tells the audience Skiles's back story. Her character will also be given the task to watch Skiles when he's sent back to Beirut. The supporting cast are standouts, too, and fully invested in the chaos that surrounds Skiles's mission.
Directed with a fast pace by Brand Anderson, Morroco subs for the Lebanese capital and cinematographer by Bjorn Charpentier douses it with color, and realistic scenery, burned down buildings, children running with guns, Muslims to the West, Christians to the East. As they say, war isn't pretty and it's considerably bleak here. There are signs in hotel rooms: "In the event of shooting at the hotel, management insists that guests stay in their rooms and Do Not Attempt to take photographs." Yes, this is no vacation.
This is a smart thriller that will force its viewers to stick with the plot. It lacks the action of a "Bourne" film, however, so there isn't enough of that to keep the non cerebral fan enthralled. It's deep and complicated, and talky. This is a political tale, stories of religious wars, and issues that hit close to home right now; Americans who are hearing news about "soon or maybe not soon" missile attacks on Syria.
"Beirut" is playing at movie theaters in Miami-Dade and Broward counties.