Caught in the crossfires of civil war, CIA operatives must send a former U.S. diplomat to negotiate for the life of a friend he left behind.
Known as ‘Beirut’ on its U.S. release, ‘The Negotiator’ is a period political thriller set in Lebanon that stars Jon Hamm as the character of the film’s title. Hamm plays Mason Skiles, a former U.S. diplomat who returns to the country where his family died in order to assist with the rescue of a kidnapped colleague (Mark Pellegrino). Skiles is a skilled negotiator and his task is to organise a hostage exchange between his colleague and a dangerous PLO terrorist and the whole ordeal brings back memories and links to his past in the country. I thought the film was solidly entertaining and Jon Hamm delivered a fine lead performance, although it did take its time to get going and there were moments in the middle part of the film where I felt myself mentally checking out.
The majority of the film takes place during the 1982 Lebanese War and I thought the filmmakers did a good job of unpicking the complicated setting and explaining who the various warring factions are that play a part in the story. Middle Eastern politics have generally been murkier than most and ‘The Negotiator’ successfully puts us at the heart of it with a nuanced take on difficult material. Hamm is a strong performer and he makes for a good leading man here and I particularly enjoyed the fun supporting performances from the likes of Dean Norris and Shea Whigham as CIA officials who aren’t necessarily as trustworthy as they should be. The film was scribed by Tony Gilroy (writer for most of the Jason Bourne films) and directed by Brad Anderson (‘The Machinist’) and they have crafted a film that is deeply compelling at its best, particularly as we move into the final act.
‘The Negotiator’ is an intriguing political thriller with an interesting setting and I enjoyed it, even as it never fully gripped me throughout the full runtime.
Directed By: Brad Anderson
Starring: Jon Hamm, Rosamund Pike, Dean Norris, Shea Whigham, Larry Pine, Mark Pellegrino, Idir Chender, Ben Affan, Leila Bekhti, Alon Abutbul, Kate Fleetwood, Douglas Hodge, Jonny Coyne and Mohamed Zouaoui