Jon Hamm’s latest turn as booze-broken hero
DURING A RIVETING SCENE in Brad Anderson’s espionage thriller Beirut, Mason Skiles enters his long-lost friend’s apartment. He lurks in dimness, obscured by bottles and furniture, which establishes a great deal of distance between him and the audience. It’s an exemplary moment from a film that delves deep into the muck to tell a gritty and grim political story.
“In essence, it’s a movie about mysteries and people holding back secrets,” Anderson explains, “and so the covert nature of the story deserved to have a look that was equally shadowy and dark. Not the bright, sunlit Middle East that you might be familiar with.”
Skiles, played by Jon Hamm, is a former U.S. diplomat who fled Lebanon after his wife was murdered by terrorists in 1972. A depressed alcoholic, he’s something of a negotiation savant, and is recruited by government bureaucrats ten years later to aid in the search and rescue of an old colleague who has been taken hostage by a fringe Palestinian terrorist group. To make matters worse, the terrorists are led by someone Skiles was once tremendously close to.
Bolstered by a strong cast that includes Rosamund Pike, Dean Norris and Mark Pellegrino, Hamm dug into the role in much the same way he did with Don Draper on Mad Men. Both are charismatic, resolute figures, playing through crippling pain and pouring oblivion another round of drinks.
“He seems tailor-made for these kinds of characters,” Anderson says of Hamm. “Men who have all the possibilities to grab life by the horns, but they battle their own inner turmoil. With Beirut, we had this notion that this is a broken city that a broken man must return to, to fix himself. This war-torn city was very much a reflection of this guy.”
“Hamm seems tailormade for these kinds of characters”