Beirut

BEIRUT EXPOSES NEGOTIATION PERFIDY
In 1972, U.S. diplomat Mason Skiles (played Tom Hamm) hosts a lavish party at an estate overlooking Beirut (though filming is in Tangier, Morocco). Suddenly a CIA agent demands to collect his 13-year-old adopted son Karim (Yoau Saian Rosenberg) for questioning in regard to the role of his big brother, Abu Rajal (Hicham Ouraqa), in the massacre of the Israeli Olympic athletes in Munich by the Black September group associated with the Palestine Liberation Organization. (The actual mastermind was Luttif Afif.). While Skiles holds off the snatch, Black Septemberists open fire, seize Karim, and even kill Skiles’s wife Nadia (Lelia Bekhti). The film then jumps to 1982, when Skiles is back in the United States, an alcoholic, mediating labor-managements disputes in Boston. But recently Black September has seized former colleague, American diplomat Cal Riley (Mark Pellegrino), as a hostage. Skiles is persuaded by a large amount of cash to return to Beirut on a pretext that seems so intriguing that he flies to Lebanon, curious to ascertain why. The American embassy, including scheming factions, wants to exchange the hostage for someone, and Skiles has been selected as the negotiator. When he meets those holding the hostage, he discovers that his opposite number is 23-year-old Karim (now Idir Chender), who wants reunion with his older brother Rajal—and very soon. Skiles is an experienced negotiator, so he needs to learn whether the hostage is alive and how to locate Rajal for the exchange. Skiles supposes that Israel is secretly holding Rajal, but negotiation along that avenue proves frustrating, as he learns that Israel is itching to intervene in the country. When Skiles sees Rajal, however, the latter suggests that the Palestine Liberation Organization is holding Rajal, and he proves right. The next thing is to arrange a swap in a city plagued with civil war. Since the plot is not one of those billed as “based on a true story,” one aim of the film is to demonstrate the chaos of the city on the eve of an Israeli attack and an eventual slaughter of American peacekeepers. The spy film’s director, Brad Anderson, may not have the intention of using Beirut as an exemplar of the entire Middle East today, especially the portrayal of perfidious American diplomats, who will discourage decent college students from applying for positions in the U.S. Foreign Service. But that is the impression left, especially during the hostage exchange scene and the final scene—a duplicitous statement by President Ronald Reagan. MH