Beirut

Screenwriter Tony Gilroy (Michael Clayton) set out to write an international thriller that harked back to John LeCarré but was properly scaled to a feature film, and his script strikes a perfect balance between suspense and geopolitical context. In 1972, a U.S. diplomat in the title city (Jon Hamm) hosts a high-level cocktail party attended by his wife and the 13-year-old boy, rescued from a Palestinian refugee camp, whom they plan to adopt; to their horror, the party is attacked by terrorists led by the boy’s grown brother, and the diplomat’s wife is killed. Ten years later, as Israel prepares to invade south Lebanon, the hero, now an alcoholic labor negotiator, is called back to the troubled country by the CIA to help negotiate the release of old colleague who’s been kidnapped by a PLO splinter group. Gilroy paints a nuanced picture of the civil conflict in Lebanon, noting the U.S. and Israeli agendas at work and the inner tensions of the PLO, yet this information serves to clarify and accelerate the action. Brad Anderson directed; with Rosamund Pike, Mark Pellegrino, and Dean Norris.