BEIRUT — Review by Susan Granger

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Charismatic Jon Hamm (TV’s “Mad Men”) is such a good actor that it’s a shame his considerable talents are wasted on this disjointed political thriller, set in war-torn Lebanon in 1982. Hamm plays Mason Skiles, a top U.S. diplomat, happily married to Nadia (Leila Bekhti) and living in Beirut. Having no children of their own, they’ve taken in Karim (Yoav Sadian Rosenberg), a 13 year-old Palestinian refugee, treating him like “part of the family.” Continue reading…

At a cocktail party, Mason discovers that Karim’s older brother, Abu Rajal (Hicham Ouraqa), is a terrorist suspected in the massacre of the Israelis at the 1972 Munich Olympics – and Mossad agents want to question Karim.

Without warning, Karim’s brother and his cohorts barge in, guns blazing and grab Karim. Nadia is killed in the chaos, and Mason is bereft.

Cut to Boston 10 years later. Perpetually depressed Mason has become a union negotiator and a bona fide alcoholic. One night in bar, he’s approached with an offer he cannot refuse.

His close friend/CIA colleague Cal Riley (Mark Pellegrino) is being held hostage by now-grown Karim (Idir Chender), who demands the return of his brother from the Israelis.

But the Israelis don’t have his brother, forcing Skiles to deal with the PLO. Milling around are three other key players: cultural attaché Sandy Crowder (Rosamund Pike), CIA agent Donald Gaines (Dean Norris), and the Embassy’s Gary Ruzak (Shea Whigham). Each has his/her own agenda.

Jon Hamm’s bleary Mason Skiles is totally believable, even if the convoluted plot isn’t – perhaps because it’s based on a 27 year-old script, written by Tony Gilroy (“Bourne” franchise), and loosely inspired by CIA Station Chief William Buckley’s 1984 kidnapping.

Director Brad Anderson (“The Machinist”) and editor Andrew Hafitz seem unable to twist the pieces together coherently, and the lighting is so dark and murky that it looks as if it were filmed in a bunker, making it difficult to distinguish one actor from another.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Beirut” is a frustrating 4, losing suspense along the way.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.