Mason Skiles had a great life as a diplomat in Beirut. He and his wife, Nadia, live in a beautiful house and have been mentoring a thirteen year-old Palestinian boy named Karim. The opening scene is a party that the Stiles are hosting for other dignitaries. Karim is helping out serving the guests. When a CIA friend of Mason, Cal, comes to the party he is interested only in taking Karim in for questioning about an older brother Mason doesn't know about. What happens that night changes Mason's life forever, along several others at the party...
The story of 'Beirut' begins long before Tony Gilroy established himself as the acclaimed storyteller. Back in 1991, while working on the romantic comedy 'The Cutting Edge' (1992), Gilroy met producer Robert Cort, who happened to be a former CIA analyst. "We had a lot of geopolitical conversations and Robert thought a movie about a foreign-service diplomatic negotiator would be fascinating," Gilroy said. "At the time, Beirut was a hot topic because Tom Friedman's book 'From Beirut to Jerusalem' had just come out. We wanted to put a negotiator in a historical setting where it could feel true to life without actually being a true story." See more »
Anyone familiar with colloquial Arabic would be able to pick up on the Lebanese characters' noticeable Moroccan Darija accent and dialect. Darija is seen even by native Arabic speakers as one of the more difficult Arabic dialects to understand let alone learn. See more »
Traditional, arranged by Ihsan Al Munzer
Performed by Ihsan Al Munzer
Courtesy of Fortuna Records & Voix de Lorient See more »
Be smart. See it.
"I was a child during the Lebanese civil war, and I remember Israeli bombardments. So growing up, my view of Israel was completely negative. I'm not coming from a neutral place, but with time, I've had to re-examine my thinking." Ziad Doueiri (Lebanese director)
In the early '80's, Lebanon, and specifically Beirut, was a cauldron of conflicts that involved the interests of the US, the PLO, Israel, Syria, and Druze Militias. Director Brad Anderson and writer Tony Gilroy, reminding us of his fine work with Michael Clayton, carefully steer us through the city's growing rubble to chronicle the negotiations for a CIA spy to be exchanged for a rebel leader. Think The Year of Living Dangerously, Argo, and John le Carre for similar suspense.
Mason Skiles (Jon Hamm), a former US diplomat and current drunk, is called in as a skilled negotiator to bring back his friend, CIA agent Cal Riley (Mark Pellegrino), in a prisoner exchange. Hamm is particularly effective as a martini-soaked Cold War survivor whose role stateside after Lebanon as a labor negotiator has ennui written all over him.
Yet, this gig is fraught with danger because no one is a fool, and the smart players are too canny to be conned by a smooth talker like Mason. He has the good fortune to have his back guarded by cultural attaché Sandy Crowder (Rosamund Pike), an operative with multiple motives but a good bet to save the day.
Although little hope resides yet for a peace between Arabs and Israelis, the film succeeds in fleshing out the multiple points of view that have kept the Mideast a stew of ambitions and hatred. In the end, the film Beirut is an espionage thriller featuring an unBond, avowedly alcoholic hero. In that regard, it offers nothing new in this genre, just good action suspense and a modicum of insight.
The pace of this frenetic thriller set in the Lebanese Civil War is quick and smart with just enough character development to satisfy the harshest critics and enough turns in the negotiations to keep discerning audiences attentive and engaged. Be smart: see it.
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