Fast forward to 1982 and Skiles has crawled inside a bottle and is working as an industrial relations arbitrator in New England. However, out of the blue, as he is rounding out another tough day at the office at some local dive bar, he is approached by a former client acting on behalf of the US Government. After quickly renewing acquaintances the man states that he is on official business and that Skiles has been asked to attend an academic lecture in Beirut. The man then hands over an envelope containing US$6,000 cash, a first class plane ticket, hotel reservation and a new passport. Mason states that he would never step foot inside Beirut again. The man leaves, so allowing Mason the chance to ponder his decision.
Needless to say, Mason doesn't need much convincing and he travels to Beirut. There he meets a select number of State Department officials - Donald Gaines (Dean Norris), Gary Ruzak (Shea Whigham), and Frank Shalen (Larry Pine) together with CIA Field Agent Sandy Crowder (Rosamund Pike) and learns that Cal Riley has been abducted in Lebanon, and his kidnappers specifically asked for Mason Skiles to negotiate his release.
The next day, while Skiles is finalising the lecture that was his 'official' business reason for visiting Beirut, a car bomb explodes directly outside the building. In the carnage that follows immediately afterwards, Skiles is bundled into a truck and blindfolded and taken to a secret location to meet Karim. Karim takes him to Riley as proof of life. Riley, beaten, bruised but not down, covertly tells Skiles that the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) that he refers to in code as 'Peace, Love, Only', is holding Rami, and that Gaines should not be trusted, and a photograph back in his apartment will provide the evidence. Before releasing Skiles, Karim gives him an ultimatum for later the same night to return Rami by 2:30am, or he will sell Riley to Iran. Skiles goes to Riley's apartment to search for the photographic clue, where he encounters Crowder. After a brief standoff, she reveals that Gaines had been stealing money from the US Embassy, and that Riley had been preparing to draft a report shortly before he was kidnapped. Crowder had located the photograph previously and removed it, knowing that Gaines would also be searching for it.
Skiles convinces Crowder that the PLO is holding Rami. She steals US$4M from the CIA office in order to trade Rami for Riley. Skiles sets up the trade for Rami having parted company with US$3.9M to buy Rami from the Israeli's, and at 2:30am brings him to the exchange with Karim. After exchanging Riley for Rami, Rami is shot and killed by a Mossad sniper from a nearby bombed out building. The Americans narrowly escape with Skiles sustaining a non life threatening shot to his arm courtesy of Karim's henchmen, who needless to say are none too pleased with the sudden turn of events.
Before leaving Beirut, Skiles learns that Gaines has unexpectedly retired, and Ruzak has left Beirut. Crowder announces her intention to apply for the newly-vacant jobs, and Skiles offers his services as a negotiator. Riley and Skiles part company with a smile and a handshake saying that they should not leave it so long next time between drinks.
'Beirut' is a well crafted old school type thriller that shows a war ravaged city at its knees and the governmental wranglings on going between the US, Lebanon, Israel and Palestine as each vie for a piece of the action and to gain the upper hand through almost any means necessary. Jon Hamm is well cast in the role as the leading man for once, and delivers Tony Gilroy's script with a world weary alcohol fuelled realism and believability that keeps the story grounded, and very much of the era in which it is set. Rosamund Pike, whilst having a lesser role is no less convincing as the undercover agent tasked with keeping Skiles alive and ensuring the mission is a success - she's one of the good guys here, and she doesn't turn corrupt at the end either which is a bit of a refreshing twist. At times the film drags its heels a little, but this is only a minor criticism and this is certainly worth the price of cinema entry.
'Beirut' merits three claps of the Odeon Online clapperboard, from a possible five.