Beirut

Written by Tony Gilroy who is best known as the screenwriter for the Jason Bourne movie franchise first released in 2002, Beirut is a fairly typical espionage thriller set in the Middle East that is elevated by strong performances from the main cast and a uniquely complex script. Set in 1980s Beirut during the Lebanese Civil War, the story focuses on the former United States diplomatic officer Mason Skiles, played by the gruffly charismatic Jon Hamm in a Don Draper-esque performance, who must return to Lebanon a decade following the death of his family and departure from the Foreign Service. He learns that he is sent to Beirut following the kidnapping of his previously close friend Cal Riley, played by Mark Pellegrino, by a group of Islamic terrorists. While in-country investigating the crime and trying to rescue his estranged former coworker, he is handled by the undercover CIA operative Sandy Crowder, played by Rosamund Pike, in collaboration with State Department officials Donald Gaines, played by Dean Norris of Breaking Bad fame, and Gary Ruzak, played by Shea Whigham. Skiles eventually finds himself entangled in an intricate web of international diplomacy and espionage involving the Israelis, the Palestinians, and the religious factions fighting for control of Lebanon. He also discovers that not everyone is who they seem and that the whole mission is fraught with deceit and focused on the larger political picture of the Middle East. Strikingly reminiscent of the screenwriter’s earlier work with the Jason Bourne series, the movie has a gritty feel with its use of jumpy camerawork and moments of intense action underscored by a clever and somewhat complicated plot involving spies. Overall, I found it to be an entertaining movie that at times felt a little too complicated to be a stereotypical genre piece appealing to all audiences but was able to stay afloat primarily due to the strong acting.

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