April 25, 2018

Beirut: Grieving Diplomat Returns to Beirut in Revenge Thriller

By Kam Williams

In 1972, Mason Skiles (Jon Hamm) was a career U.S. diplomat serving overseas in Lebanon. He and his wife Nadia (Leila Bekhti) were so comfortable living in the Middle East that they had decided to adopt Karim (Idir Chender), a 13-year-old Palestinian refugee.

This, despite the fact that unstable Lebanon had a history of falling into a state of unrest where warring factions faced each other for months, if not years. However, as a seasoned veteran, Mason knew how to keep the lines of communication open because the fighting starts once the talking stops.

However, that philosophy proved useless when a colleague, Cal Riley (Mark Pellegrino), gave him some shocking news. Cal told him that Karim could be a security risk since his older brother was Abu Rajal (Hicham Ouraqa), a terrorist who had taken part in the massacre of the 11 Jewish athletes who had participated in the Summer Olympics that took place in Munich.

Before Mason had a chance to question Karim, gunmen burst into their house. When the dust settled, Karim had disappeared and Nadia lay dead with a bullet in her head. Mason never got a chance to learn whether the orphan they had welcomed into their family with open arms was really a radical Islamist.

Fast forward ten years to find the still-grieving Mason addicted to alcohol and in a different line of work in Boston. One day, he learns that his friend Cal had just been kidnapped in Lebanon. It wasn’t difficult for the U.S. State Department to coax Mason out of retirement to rescue his old friend. However, will Mason stay sober, and does he have what it takes to handle such a sensitive assignment?

That is the intriguing premise of Beirut, a thriller written by Oscar-nominee Tony Gilroy (Michael Clayton). The movie was directed by Brad Anderson and the cast includes Jon Hamm, Rosamund Pike, Dean Norris, and Shea Whigham.

The plot thickens when Mason arrives in Lebanon and learns that the kidnapper he must deal with is none other than Karim, who wants to exchange Cal for his missing brother, who is rumored to be in an Israeli prison.

Excellent (****). Rated R for profanity, violence, and a nude image. In English and Arabic with subtitles. Running time: 109 minutes. Production Studios: Radar Pictures/ShivHans Pictures/Kasbah — Film Tanger. Distributor: Bleecker Street Media.