Quote from Beirut by Mason Skiles: “Maybe one of you can tell me what I’m doing here?”
I felt excited to see what Beirut would offer me. The opening scene was engaging as it delved into the perceived stereotypes and real dangers of living in the Middle East. The relations and conflicts between Israel and Arab nations continue to this day, but in the 1980s there was just as much tension. I thought of the movie Rosewater while watching it for some reason. While the portrayal of Iranians was more negative than positive, I wondered why I felt little discomfort. It probably had to do with the fact it was non-fictional and was told by Maziar Bahari himself. While some boycotted Beirut for its one-sidedness and white man rescue syndrome, this doesn’t mean it is an inherently bad movie although it thrust it into the unwanted spotlight.
Beirut is a drama written by Tony Gilroy and directed by Brad Anderson. Its major cast includes Jon Hamm, Rosamund Pike, Dean Norris, Shea Whigham, and Mark Pellegrino. The movie centers around an American diplomat leaving his old life behind him due to tragedy, and finding himself having to re-enter that world. Along the way, he hopes to find reconciliation within himself and the people he left behind. The running time is one hour and 49 minutes and rated R for language, some violence, and brief nudity.
The movie begins with Mason Skiles living a good life with his Lebanese wife and being a father figure to a Palestinian boy who does not have a family of his own in Lebanon. We learn Kamir does have family. He has a brother who may or may not be part of a terrorist group, and this is when tragedy falls on Skiles. The life he knew is gone and makes the decision to leave Lebanon for good, but as fate has it, he returns later because the U.S. government needs his help. For a while he is unclear why he is there, but then learns someone he knew in his past is in danger. This leads to him working with the CIA and state officials to uncover the whereabouts of the person. He traverses to places of his past, all in the attempts to formulate a plan on how to get the person back to safety.
It feels a little wrong to give Jon Hamm such great props for portraying Skiles while not talking about the other major cast. It is not that they do not have the skill set to portray convincing and (un)likable characters. They all do because I’ve seen them shine: Breaking Bad (Norris), Hostiles (Pike), Boardwalk Empire (Whigham), and Dexter (Pellegrino). But, if anyone deserves all the opportunities to showcase his talent, it would be Jon Hamm. One upcoming movie I do want to see him in is Bad Times at the El Royale. He has come a long way from moving furniture around soft core porn sets. I’ve never seen him in a show or movie I didn’t think he was outstanding. Hamm has all the nuance, intuition, and timing to make Skiles character realistic and likable. He carried a large part of the movie, and it is partially why I kept watching it to the end. He has range and if you doubt me, watch any Saturday Night Live skit he takes part of.
I recommend this movie because the cast is good, and it caters to adults because children will not have the attention span for this. I would venture to say some adults don’t have the attention span for this kind of movie because it progresses at a slower pace. While it is described as a drama/thriller, I thought it was more drama and less of a thriller. Most of the major events and scenes steering Beirut in the direction it did was predictable. I will say that the ending was fitting, and glad the direction went that way instead of other ways. Despite the controversy and negative critique, I would recommend it although there are more compelling movies about the CIA and Middle East. Maybe, therein lies the problem because both are complicated subjects, and appears Beirut only scratched the surface flesh in some areas when it should’ve drawn blood, but there is only so much you can fit into a script. Creators have the freedom to create most anything, but that doesn’t always translate into a positive outcome for everyone. I can see the dissenters had valid reasons for disliking Beirut, but the fact remains that people do kill others based on their differences, and I’m not only talking about the Middle East. It isn’t right to demonize a collective group of people based on their appearance alone. Yes, Hollywood needs an overhaul on what and who is portrayed on the screen. Not everyone is going to like the final cut, and how much does a writer/director take into account the critiques of others before, during, and after the process while not sacrificing thier own vision? The last remaining observation is timing can be a blessing or a curse.
Beirut gets three fingers at 79%