In theaters from director Brad Anderson and Bleeker Street Media is a story with twists that lead to truth while in “Beirut.”
Mason Skiles (Jon Hamm) is a diplomat in Beirut keeping his finger on the pulse of what is happening around him, or so he thought. During a party, Cal Riley (Mark Pellegrino) comes to warn him that the young boy Karim, who the family has practically adopted, is going to be taken in for questioning. His older brother Abu Rajal (Hicham Ouraqa) is a Palestinian terrorist involved in the massacre at the Munich Olympics
Before that can happen, the party is terrorized as bullets fly and Karim is grabbed. In the midst of the firefight, Skiles wife Nadia (Leila Bekhti) is killed. Fast forward a few years and Skiles has reached rock bottom as a labor negotiator job he barely cares about and swimming in alcohol.
Sitting at a bar with his favorite drink, Skiles is approached to take money and a plane ticket back to Beirut to lecture at the university. Never wanting to return to Beirut again, something tells him to get aboard the plane. Once there he is met by Sandy Crowder (Rosamund Pike), Donald Gaines (Dean Norris), and Gary Ruzak (Shea Whigham) who finally tell him why he’s really there – Cal Riley has been taken and the kidnappers only want to negotiate with Skiles.
Discovering it is a grown Karim (Idir Chender) who is calling the shots and only trusts Skiles to make the exchange happen. An exchange is demanded, Riley for Karim’s brother who seems to have disappeared. Believing that it is the Israeli’s who have him, Skiles investigates and also discovers the PLO minister is keeping secrets as well.
In the middle of this is a war in a war-torn country that is getting more and more out of hand by the minute. No one can be trusted and deception seems to be the order of the minute.
Crowder is trying to keep up with Skiles as he slips through the city discovering that there is more at play here than just Riley’s kidnapping. There are others in the governments involved and their seedy agenda becomes clear.
Both Skiles and Crowder are going to make the exchange happen but on their terms.
Hamm as Skiles begins as a man who seems to have the charming ability to move in a crowd and do what needs doing. Once the world he thought he knew was shattered, there didn’t seem to be any purpose to anything Skiles does. That is until Riley is taken does he slowly come out of the daze and snaps back into discovering he is the absolute right person to get the job done. Hamm’s performance is intense yet his character takes a moment to remember in the middle of rubble how all of the events came to be.
Pike as Crowder wants to believe that Skiles is right for the job and that’s the dilemma. Knowing someone is right for a job and seeing the state they are currently in means never being quite sure if they can be trusted. Pike shines as a woman who not only takes her job seriously but knows that playing the international game of cat and mouse puts her right in the middle of danger.
Chender as Karim is caught up in the what is happening in Beirut. Finding a life with Skiles as a young boy he enjoyed being with them. The moment he is taken it is clear that studying and being part of the family will quickly become a distant memory. When the time comes to trust someone, that may be the one thing Karim knows to be true about Skiles. Chender gives his character such complexity in a situation none of us could possibly understand. This is the life mixed with what was and what became of a young life.
Other cast include Dean Norris as Donald Gaines, Shea Whigham as Gary Ruzak, Douglas Hodge as Sully, Jonny Coyne as Bernard Teppler, Leila Bekhti as Nadia, Kate Fleetwood as Alice, Alon Aboutboul as Roni Niv, Sonia Okacha as Sondrine and Mohamed Zouaoui as Fahmi.
“Beirut” is a film that is a reminder of the fragile peace and intense wars in the Middle East that are waged with others calling the shots. Their agendas may seem up front but for everyone to get what they want, deals are made and deals are brokered in 1982.
The cast is quick with a storyline that is constantly in flux and never once gives away which way the chase will go or how it will end. The cinematography is flawless and adds another depth to the very intense story being told.
In the end – Beirut of 1982 and the Paris of the Middle East is burning!