1980s, feature film, Terrorism

Jon Hamm Can’t Carry Beirut

Jon Hamm may have been great in Mad Men, but he’s not that great starring in a major movie like Beirut.

There are other problems with the film, notably the script, but I just didn’t buy Hamm playing a labor negotiator cum spy in Beirut. He’s playing true to form, as a middle-aged, unhappy alcoholic.It worked in Mad Men perhaps, because that TV show took place in the U.S. in the 1960s advertising world, filled with stick men playing sophisticates.

This time, though, he’s playing a true sophisticate shattered by his wife’s violent death in 1972 Lebanon, and an alcoholic ten years later with nothing to look forward to.

The movie begins with a scene of Hamm playing host to a party in Lebanon attended by his wife,the U.S. ambassador, and assorted CIA men. It’s immediately apparent that Hamm is simply mouthing platitudes in what becomes a draining and cliche-ridden script.

At the party, a 13-year-old Middle Eastern boy that Hamm and his wife are trying to adopt is serving canapes. Hamm is summoned away and soon learns that the 13-year-old is the brother of a terrorist who made his name at the Munich Olympics. Violence ensues, and the boy is kidnapped while Hamm’s wife is killed.

Ten years later, Hamm is summoned back to Lebanon to work as a negotiator. He doesn’t learn the details of his mission until he arrives there. Enter Rosamund Pike, a vision in dowdy 1980s clothing. She is a “skirt” whose purpose is to keep Hamm under control.

It turns out that Hamm is in Beirut to help his friend from the long ago party escape from kidnappers. The rest of the film is pretty predictable. Of course the 13-year-old has grown up to become a terrorist, and of course he has mixed feelings about Hamm’s character. He demands that his brother, of Munich fame, be exchanged for Hamm’s friend.

A significant portion of the film is taken up with finding the lost brother, who ends up being in the custody of the PLO.

About the only bright spot in the movie is Shea Whigham, who plays a baddie in the CIA. He of course, is outed in the end, and it all comes to a satisfactory conclusion, with Rosamund Pike going against her colleagues and saving the day. Very convenient, but the whole movie experience was a drag, one I wanted to walk out on.


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