Tag Archives: rosamund pike

‘Beirut’ a By-The-Numbers Old School Thriller

This, “7 Days in Entebbe,” “Hostiles,” “A United Kingdom…” I can’t remember the last time Rosamund Pike starred in a film set in the 21st century…

Set in 1982 during the Lebanese Civil War, “Beirut” stars Jon Hamm as a former U.S. diplomat turned union negotiator who gets thrown back into the political ring when a former colleague is taken hostage by terrorists. Rosamund Pike, Dean Norris, Shea Whigham, Larry Pine and Mark Pellegrino also star as Brad Anderson directs.

This film reminds me a lot of the 2016 Bryan Cranston vehicle “The Infiltrator.” Both are films that star a former AMC TV series leading man, are made by small studios and are about political conflicts in the 1980s that the CIA must try to fix. They have similar feels, too; that stock “thriller of the week” type look and tone. That film was just OK, with the central performance being solid but the overall product being a bit dry and by-the-numbers and it’s a lot of the same here, too.

I like Jon Hamm and think he is great in supporting roles like “The Town” but have always felt his true calling may be comedy (his roles in “Bridesmaids” and “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” are great and he shows comedic timing in his H&R Block ads). Here he is doing dramatic work, playing a man who has lost his wife and ten years later is coping with the inevitable baggy eyes and alcoholism. That being said, despite waking up and putting whiskey in his coffee and bosses saying his drinking could be a problem, he never actually appears to be drunk in a scene. He has some good delivery and yelling moments but the role itself just is pretty bland and doesn’t give him much room to work.

All the supporting cast are doing their typical shtick, with Rosamund Pike playing the well-meaning operative, Dean Norris acting as the growling leader and Shea Whigham being the shady, shifty agent. No one stands out or is memorable, but at the same time no one is awful or chews any scenery.

The film premiered at Sundance in January so that implies the production budget of the project was relatively low, so for that it is to be commended. Shot in Morocco in 2016, the film does feel like it is set in the 1980s as opposed to simply being a modern film with the word “1982” slapped on the screen. Characters smokes cigarettes, bomb-shelled buildings lie on every street corner like it’s no big deal and a countries biggest concern is getting aerial shots of enemy camps (because satellites and undercover jets weren’t really in the mainstream yet).

The best parts are when Hamm is attempting to negotiate, and to see the back-and-forth and wait-and-see that goes into diplomatic trades, even when human lives are at stake.

The film’s problem is that it just isn’t very interesting through a large chunk of the runtime. We get introduced to the players and are just expected to remember their names, and there are never any real stakes. For a film that sets itself up as “Jews vs Muslims vs Christians vs the government vs the Americans” there is hardly any “who can we really trust?” moments and it never lives up the bar set by the films it is clearly trying to imitate.

“Beirut” is a pretty bland film set in a far-from-bland region in a pretty chaotic period in history. Fans of the subject or Hamm may get more out of it than the typical moviegoer but I felt the urge to check my watch or fight back a yawn on a few occasions and that’s a shame.

Critic’s Grade: C

‘Gone Girl’ Powerfully Acted, Capably Executed Thriller

Gone_Girl_Poster                Do you smell that? It’s the smell of Oscar Season returning to grace us with its presence, and it is brought upon by director David Fincher’s newest film, “Gone Girl”.

On the morning of his fifth wedding anniversary, Nick (Ben Affleck) arrives home to find his house in shambles and his wife (Rosamund Pike) missing. When the media begins to put the spotlight on him, the police and American public start to wonder if Nick is an innocent victim, or a killer? Neil Patrick Harris and Tyler Perry also star.

It is hard to say why “Gone Girl” is a good film without spoiling anything. In fact it is hard to really talk at all about this film without giving away one of its many twists. But it’s my job, so here we go.

The always reliable David Fincher, who directed films ranging cult classics “Fight Club” and “Se7en” to the fantastic “Social Network” and American version of “Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”, directs “Gone Girl” in such a stepped-back, impartial way that at times you forget you are watching a movie. It is almost like you are simply watching events unfold, and you do not know who to trust.

Gillian Flynn, who wrote the novel on which the film is based, as well as penned the screenplay for the movie, has such a way with words that she is able to work in moments of dark humor that just feel natural. Sometimes in movies characters are deadly serious all the time and it almost takes you out of the film, but never with “Gone Girl”. It makes sure to have a little strategically placed bits of humor or lightheartedness just when a moment may be getting too serious or stale.

If you hear anything about the film, it will likely be one of two things: Rosamund Pike’s performance, or the twists. This film has more twists than a pastry from Cinnabon. At first they are small things, like the police finding a clue, but as the film goes on, they get more and more elaborate and hit harder and harder, until the ultimate punch to the stomach in the film’s final moments.

As for Pike, there is so much that could be said but I’ll keep it brief. As she narrates the film via her diary passages and flashbacks, we see at first the fairytale marriage that she and Affleck have, but then how they begin to become more and more distant, until finally she begins to fear her own husband. It is a multi-layered performance that is sure to earn her award talk.

Now as much as the film wants to front itself as a brilliant Oscar contender, there are some glaring flaws. The first act of the film, when police are collecting initial clues and samples and Affleck is doing interviews, can drag a little, as we aren’t really learning anything new or earth shattering, but still are sitting through it all. It is a little like watching a behind-the-scenes, paperwork-only edition of “Law and Order”, just with more awkward pacing. The film may also leave some viewers, including myself, craving a better delivery of the climax.

“Gone Girl” is a perfectly cast, capably directed film that just suffers from some narrative and pacing issues, as well as a possible weak finale. That being said, it is an engrossing, dark and intelligent, and may leave your brain hurting when the credits start to roll. Is “Gone Girl” as entertaining or memorable as it wants to be? No. But that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t come close.

Critics Rating: 7/10