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Review: ‘Beirut’ gives Hamm his best movie role to-date

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The ‘Mad Men’ star does strong work in this tense kidnapping thriller

A tense, tight kidnapping thriller about shifting loyalties and finding redemption, “Beirut” marks Jon Hamm’s finest film work to date.

Post-“Mad Men,” Hamm hasn’t had an easy time finding roles as juicy as Don Draper to dive into. But here he brings soul and smarts to Mason Skiles, an ex-U.S. diplomat who returns to Beirut following an incident that tore his world apart.

As the movie opens, Skiles is explaining the political and religious intricacies that make Beirut a melting pot of hostility. He describes it as a boarding house without a landlord — “Michael Clayton’s” Tony Gilroy wrote the sharp screenplay — in a monologue that lets you know he’s a slick, smooth talker who can chat with anyone and break down a situation to its elements.

After he loses his wife in a terror raid, Skiles heads home to the U.S. where he lays low and works with local union reps, picking up a healthy drinking habit on the side. When his old partner is kidnapped, he’s forced to return to Beirut and play ball with the same hostile elements that took his wife from him 10 years prior, and work with a team that includes CIA field agent Sandy Crowder (Rosamund Pike in another bad wig, following “7 Days in Entebbe”) and State Department official Gary Ruzak (Shea Whigham).

For all the large scale implications of its title, “Beirut” is a contained story that doesn’t try to solve the myriad issues at play in the Lebanese capitol. But that charged backdrop heightens the suspense of the story, which is helmed with exacting precision by director Brad Anderson (“The Machinist”). There are no extraneous pieces, everything fits together like a puzzle. And Hamm is that puzzle’s key piece.

agraham@detroitnews.com

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‘Beirut’

GRADE: B

Rated R for language, some violence and a brief nude image

Running time: 109 minutes

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