The Negotiator




A drama set in the Beirut of 1982 in which you wonder who can be trusted.

Negotiagtor, The

Jon Hamm


This film has the good luck to star Jon Hamm, an actor who plays with real authority. He it is who holds together what is a decidedly watchable but relatively routine political thriller set in Beirut. It opens in 1972 when Hamm's character, Mason Skiles, is in the city as a diplomat. This, however, is merely a prelude (albeit a very relevant one) to the main narrative set ten years later by which time a tragic event has transformed Mason's life. We find him back in America but now acting as a negotiator in labour disputes in Boston. Before long though, albeit with a certain reluctance, he accepts a summons back to Beirut. It transpires that a negotiator is needed in the hope of arranging a swop for an American held hostage there and the man in question (Mark Pellegrino), being an old friend of Mason's, has requested him for this task.


While the story is a fictional one, the historical setting which brings into play various CIA operatives, an Israeli military boss and a minister representing the Palestinian Liberation Front, draws strongly on actuality as does the atmospheric portrayal of Beirut, even if to recreate this past period Tangier was chosen as a convincing substitute. However, as written by Tony Gilroy as a screen original (a project initially conceived years ago but only recently brought to fruition), The Negotiator is the kind of complex drama that one associates with the work of John le Carré. As such, we not only share Mason's doubts as to who can be trusted but have to concentrate hard to follow the intricacies of the plot development.


Consequently, while The Negotiator may not appeal to those who favour straightforward action blockbusters, it does work on its chosen level aided by its cast, although in the case of Rosamund Pike with top billing alongside Hamm one wishes that her role as a CIA handler gave her rather more to do. Even Hamm who dominates so skilfully can't prevent one from feeling that plots of this kind are becoming somewhat formulaic. Given the le Carré comparison (one which is said to have been in Gilroy's mind), the fact is that Mason Skiles is a figure lacking  the  depth and memorability of Alec Guinness's George Smiley or of Philip Seymour Hoffman realising to the full his last great role as Günther Bachman in the underrated A Most Wanted Man (2014). This confirms that The Negotiator is a movie that belongs in the second rank, but for all that it's quite good enough to see since Jon Hamm is so central here and so accomplished in all that he does.


Aka Beirut (outside the UK).




Cast: Jon Hamm, Rosamund Pike, Mark Pellegrino, Kate Fleetwood, Shea Whigham, Dean Norris, Larry Pine, Douglas Hodge, Leila Bekhti, Idir Chender, Mohammed Attougui, Yoav Sadian.


Dir Brad Anderson, Pro Ted Field, Monica Levinson, Tony Gilroy, Shivani Rawat and Mike Weber, Screenplay Tony Gilroy, Ph Björn Charpentier, Pro Des Arad Sawat, Ed Andrew Hafitz, Music John Debney, Costumes Carlos Rosario.


Radar Pictures/ShivHans Pictures-Signature Entertainment.
109 mins. USA. 2017. Rel: 10 August 2018. Cert. 15.