By: Henry J. Fromage (Three Beers) –
Tony Gilroy has made a career out of tense political thrillers starring A-list actors, and Jon Hamm has forever put his mark on handsome operators driven to drink by existential ennui, so Beirut pretty much wrote and cast itself.
They should hang this in classrooms across the nation.
In Beirut, Jon Hamm stars as a diplomat who loses everything in that titular city due to a perhaps unavoidable miscalculation- “a front-runner who stumbled”. A decade later he’s pulled from his decidedly less glamorous small business arbitrator position and the bottle to return to Lebanon to negotiate something with far higher stakes, and not a few connections to the past he’s trying to drink away.
Just as advertised, Gilroy’s well-paced script keeps you wondering where its convolutions are heading, and Jon Hamm totally embodies a man beaten down by his tragic past and seeking solace in the bottle. Seeing him embroiled in a hostage situation that is literally the last thing on earth he would like to take part in, then shaking off the rust and starting to play the players is capital mid-budget adult entertainment of the type that is all to rare these days. Not everything needs car chases and CGI explosions, folks.
Here’s hoping Hamm uses this as a boost into the Hollywood leading man roles that he’s clearly well-suited to. It’s strange that we’re almost more used to him as a comic relief presence despite his storied run on Mad Men. The rest of the supporting cast also performs admirably, although I have to give a special shout-out to Dean Norris’s wig.
Truly, it’s a thing of beauty.
I don’t actually know what this is, but I feel like I couldn’t not share it.
There’s something slight about all of this, though, something a bit too reliant on bad decision making by supposed geopolitical pros (ex- why give him a belt with a tracker in such a way that he’s very aware there’s a tracker in it? Did you think he would do anything but take it off when most convenient for him?) This movie isn’t as clever as Jon Hamm makes you think it is, playing more to the middle of the Tony Gilroy mid-budget thriller oeuvre it most decidedly belongs to.
Remember this one? Not all of his films are Michael Claytons.
The final image of the American flag waving in the background as our purported heroes walk off into the sunset, followed by a smash-cut to Reagan, real bombing footage, and ironic period newscasts make a pretty ungrounded attempt to add some sociopolitical import to what until now has been a very fictional thriller that didn’t exactly call for that move.
Beirut is an engaging spy games thriller with an elevating lead performance from Jon Hamm and enough twists and turns to keep you interested.
Beirut (2018) Drinking Game
Take a Drink: for each reference to the traumatic past
Take a Drink: every time the camera pans over a war-torn urban landscape
Take a Drink: every time Jon Hamm does, of course
Take a Drink: for every tense meeting between enemies
Do a Shot: whenever Dean Norris’s wig demands it of you