Beirut

⋆⋆½ out of four stars

Rated: R for language, violence and brief nude image. In English and subtitled Arabic.

 

In this period thriller, which opened Wednesday, Jon Hamm delivers a career-reviving performance.

The story begins in 1972, before the onset of Syria’s 15-year-long civil war. With a winning smile and a born negotiator’s skill, Hamm’s character, Mason Skiles, is a fixer for the U.S. embassy, the go-to guy for fending off bedlam.

A decade later, he is back in the United States when he’s summoned to Beirut. A former embassy colleague has been taken hostage by insurgents who will speak to no one except Skiles. The CIA wants the hostage back, partly to save his life, but mostly to ensure that he doesn’t blurt out state secrets. Can Skiles complete the mission without shooting or fighting, simply by talking? The challenge provides Hamm with a meaty role as a hero without a gun, a part that proves he’s not only a movie star adored by the camera, but a talented film actor.

Alas, the work of writer/producer Tony Gilroy and director Brad Anderson are not the equal of Hamm’s. They fall back on tricks that are not so tricky and a second-act surprise that won’t surprise anyone who is paying attention. Hamm deserves better.

Colin Covert

 

Finding Your Feet

⋆⋆½ out of four stars

Rated: PG-13 for suggestive material, brief drug use and profanity.

 

While not another sequel to “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,” this British film — which shares a concept and some of the actors from that 2011 dramedy — certainly could lead to flashbacks by the audience. That being said, the story about middle-class Londoners in their 60s and 70s getting on with life has a genial watchability — even a stubborn relevance — thanks to its crackerjack ensemble cast playing characters just eccentric enough to keep things tasty.

When snooty suburbanite Sandra (Imelda Staunton) discovers that her husband has been having a long affair, she seeks solace with her estranged older sister, Elizabeth (Celia Imrie), an aging hippie and free spirit. Elizabeth’s colorful friends gradually draw Sandra into their circle. She even meets a guy (Timothy Spall), whom, of course, she hates at first. It’s obvious from the outset where this movie is going, but it’s still a pleasant trip.

Jane Horwitz, Washington Post

Ismael’s Ghosts

⋆⋆⋆ out of four stars

Rated: R for nudity, profanity and brief violence. In subtitled French.

Theater: Lagoon.

 

To identify the title character in this French romantic drama as writer/director Arnaud Desplechin’s alter ego would be both redundant and imprecise. Like much of his work, it’s personal but not exactly autobiographical.

Ismael (Mathieu Amalric) is an unruly French filmmaker with a colorful past whose wife, Carlotta, vanished 21 years ago and hasn’t been seen or heard from since. Ismael is at a beachside retreat with his lover (Charlotte Gainsbourg) when, much to their dazed disbelief, Carlotta (Marion Cotillard) shows up and moves into their beach house.

Manipulation and maneuvering ensue. Not everything coheres. If it did, the movie wouldn’t feel quite so alive.

Justin chang,

Los Angeles Times