Beirut

Alright so let’s get expectations for this movie out of the way. something something it’s important to know where I’m coming from with things like this. I had absolutely no expectations for the movie Beirut, mostly because up until I saw it I had heard just about nothing about it. I just happened to check showtimes on my MoviePass app (#Notsponsored) and it had a poster with John Hamm up for this movie, I like John Hamm so why not go see it?  you never know right?

Beirut is a new drama movie starring John Hamm and Rosamund Pike. It’s story centers around a former US diplomat Mason Skiles who is brought back to Beirut after leaving in the 70’s to help negotiate the release of his estranged friend, a CIA officer. Ticking clock, high stakes, secrecy, betrayal, and all that jazz follows in this marginally complex movie.

As is my new usual, a brief video review is here, or a slightly more in-depth look can be read by scrolling down.

Beirut turned out to be a pretty fun spy-ish movie. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a full-out spy movie, but it has a lot of elements of those sort of movies. A highly skilled and handsome (I can call John Hamm handsome ok?) lead character being called reluctantly back into action,  a cohort of government agents whose motivations and jobs are vague and broad respectively, a total smoke show female actress accompanying our lead, and a villain that’s somehow connected directly to the main character. I know it sounds like I’m describing 99% of the Bond movies, but all of those things are clear and present in Beirut as well.

Beirut’s lead Mason does things differently than 007 though. Most obviously is that he never uses bullets to solve his problems, and that makes sense he is a diplomat after all. That does leave Beirut pretty light on action, but the story is more than engaging enough to keep your attention throughout.  Also on the note of differences between Bond and Mason despite the bombshell blonde tasked with watching over him, Beirut never feels a need to force any sort of romance between the two.  Sandy (Rosamund Pike’s character and bombshell) consistently proves that she’s much more than a pretty face, but rather a savvy, intelligent and determined agent trying to get the job done. It’s a very nice breath of fresh air for spy movies.

Another thing I really liked about Beirut is how honest their portrayal of early 80’s Beirut is. Historically the city was in extraordinarily rough shape and the movie clearly shows it, rubble is found on every street, random fires just burning in the street are also present, the various militias make appearances in the movie. This movie really nails what an insane mess Beirut was at the time and that really helps give the movie a sense of urgency and unpredictableness. The movie makes it out that just about anything could happen at any time and it feels very believable based on the characters surroundings. Keeps the tension up without being overly dramatic.

Not everything in Beirut was something I liked though. I mentioned earlier that it’s a marginally complex movie and I say that because while there are twists and turns in the story, most of them feel somewhat predictable, like you can just look at some characters and guess that they have ulterior motives and will at some point try to screw over Mason so it’s not that surprising when it happens, its more expected.

Those reveals of betrayal still work for the most part though because John Hamm is really doing some great acting. His performance is really what allows this movie to work as a whole. Everyone else turns in decent to good performances, but it’s Hamm who seems to be going the extra mile. He should be in way more stuff.

There are also a few moments where the movie can’t quite decide if the CIA is ultra capable or some kind of bumbling idiot. Most of the time the movie makes them out to be ultra-capable, but just a couple of moments where they just screw up for no real reason other than they have to for the plot and that was a bit annoying.

Overall I really enjoyed Beirut, but I did have problems that really stuck out to me. I’d give this movie a solid B, I could probably be talked into upgrading that to a B+ if someone had a good argument though. If you’re looking for some spy action to tide you over until the next Bond movie and you aren’t scared of movies where characters talk to each other a lot then I’d recommend Beirut. Or even if you just really like John Hamm like me that’s a good enough reason to see this movie honestly. Later.

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