A perfectly serviceable airport novel of a movie, Beirut has enough espionage-like twists to keep you occupied for 109 minutes and mostly distracted from the fact its best parts never fully develop. It’s also kind of xenophobic and white savior-y, but those are almost genre requirements for this sort of thing; either you’ve made your peace with that or you haven’t.
Jon Hamm plays Mason Skiles, a handsome ace negotiator with a dead wife and a drinking problem that everyone talks about but that never seems to affect his job performance. On the eve of the 1982 Israeli invasion, Skiles is in Beirut to negotiate a hostage transfer between the CIA and the PLO.
This leads to one of Beirut’s biggest problems, which is baked into Skiles’s job description and exacerbated by the fact he’s played by Jon Hamm: Skiles always knows exactly what to say in every situation. We never doubt he’ll get what he wants, because his whole deal is getting what he wants.
Writer/director Tony Gilroy (Michael Clayton, The Bourne Legacy) is a master at having hyper-competent professionals bellow at each other across conference tables, and that punchy, acrobatic verbosity is on display here.
But his dialogue feels less confident when it’s removed from the boardroom, and it’s hard not to cringe when white guys in nice suits start whipping zingers at each other on the rubble-strewn streets of Lebanon.