The spy thriller is one of my favorite film genres. Jon Hamm is one of my favorite actors. Tony Gilroy is a screenwriter I like a lot. So, Beirut, from Director Brad Anderson, should be one of my new favorite movies, right? Well….
Mason Skiles (Hamm) is a former diplomat whose life hit the skids after a tragedy while stationed in Beirut in the 1970’s. Ten years later, he is called back into service by the CIA to help negotiate the release of one of their operatives, Mason’s old friend, Cal (Mark Pellegrino). Mason is paired with Sandy Crowder (Rosamund Pike), another CIA agent, while he receives marching orders from two other agents, Gaines (Dean Norris) and Ruzak (Shea Whigham). As the plot thickens and new players are revealed, Mason isn’t sure who he can trust and he isn’t even sure if the CIA really wants to get Cal back at all.
I liked Beirut, but I didn’t love it. Without going into spoilers, there are elements that are fairly predictable – such as, why Mason was specifically requested for the assignment – but in general, it’s a solid film. It doesn’t really change the game or anything, but it’s a good movie with a great cast. Hamm is at his Don Draper-best as the boozy Mason. I could see him becoming a thinking man’s action star, much like Harrison Ford did in the Jack Ryan films of the 1990’s. He’s also great at comedy, but unfortunately, there aren’t many laughs in Beirut – understandably so. Pike is a good on-screen partner for Hamm, but I didn’t feel like the script gave her enough to do. That probably fits with the period, though. I liked Norris and Whigham as Hamm’s allies/antagonists. They added a bit more personality to characters that could have been bland, stock characters.
Overall, Beirut is a decent espionage film, but not one of the best. Hamm gives a great performance, and if he finds the right script, he could probably break through into films and have as much success as he had on TV. Maybe check this one out when it hits Netflix.