Beirut (Brad Anderson, 2018)

Discuss films of the 21st century including current cinema, current filmmakers, and film festivals.
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Brian C
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Beirut (Brad Anderson, 2018)

#1 Post by Brian C » Sat Apr 14, 2018 10:44 pm

Beirut (Brad Anderson)

This is a good example of a film that sticks pretty close to genre conventions while and adding something a little deeper and more intelligent than its assembly-line plot might suggest. The only other of Anderson's films I've seen is Transsiberian, and I felt pretty much the same way about that one - neither film does anything radical in terms of style or narrative, but they do a good job of telling a story through their characters' states of mind.

In this case, I wouldn't go so far as to say that Beirut show how intelligence agents really work, because while this isn't a James Bond movie, the action and intrigue here still has very much a "movie" kind of feel to it. But still, it feels like the film hits pretty close to the mark in terms of how it might feel to be in this line of work: the confusing and constantly shifting mission parameters, the conflation (if not outright interchangeability) of personal and professional motives, the difficulty between telling friend from foe since those roles change at the drop of a hat anyway, and finally, the way that once everything is all over, whatever happens, the people who make a career out of this just shrug their shoulders and move on to the next thing. But more than anything, what I thing the movie really gets right is the paradox that everything that is happening is extremely important while ultimately being completely inconsequential. People's lives are at stake - hell, the geopolitics of an entire region is at stake - but still, at most, all these folks are doing is the equivalent of plugging fingers into a crumbling dam.

I should maybe catch up with more of Anderson's work if I get a chance. In my book, he's 2-for-2 with quality genre films.

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thirtyframesasecond
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Re: The Films of 2018

#2 Post by thirtyframesasecond » Sun Apr 15, 2018 5:57 am

Anderson directed The Machinist of course, which is generally your go to movie for actors doing extreme things to their bodies for their art.

His previous, Stonehearst Asylum, has a good cast though Ben Kingsley as a doctor in an asylum suggests he just went from Shutter Island to this movie! That said, I am a sucker for these kind of things - Asylum was the best American Horror Story series and even Verbinski's A Cure for Wellness was a pretty decent B movie with an A budget (Dane De Haan's blankness was actually well utilised).

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Ribs
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Re: The Films of 2018

#3 Post by Ribs » Sun Apr 15, 2018 6:17 pm

Something about Hamm's performance really grabbed me - I don't mean this as an insult directly, but it's like his character realizes he's in a movie about this and hates it deeply. It's kind of hard to describe, but he just seems to have such utter contempt for the entire plot happening around him.

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jazzo
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Re: Beirut (Brad Anderson, 2018)

#4 Post by jazzo » Sun Apr 15, 2018 8:46 pm

Brad Anderson is also responsible for one of my favourite modern horror movies, the elliptically eerie SESSION 9. Heartily recommended.

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barryconvex
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Re: Beirut (Brad Anderson, 2018)

#5 Post by barryconvex » Mon Apr 16, 2018 1:40 am

...the elliptically eerie SESSION 9. Heartily recommended.
Seconded. Fantastically creepy movie...

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John Cope
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Re: Beirut (Brad Anderson, 2018)

#6 Post by John Cope » Mon Apr 16, 2018 2:04 am

barryconvex wrote:
...the elliptically eerie SESSION 9. Heartily recommended.
Seconded. Fantastically creepy movie...
Thirded. Anderson has actually had a remarkable range within his work. Who would have thought when he appeared with Next Stop Wonderland we would get these kind of films from him? Closest analogue would seem to be someone maybe like Michael Winterbottom or Mike Newell. Still, as good as most of his work is there's really no defense for Vanishing on 7th Street. Absolutely abysmal. Avoid at all costs. Nonetheless, a better career ultimately than Bart Freundlich who appeared around the same time and initially seemed to hold a similar promise (even more promise afaic).

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Lost Highway
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Re: Beirut (Brad Anderson, 2018)

#7 Post by Lost Highway » Mon Apr 16, 2018 2:25 am

I like all of his films up to and including The Machinst, which I think is his best work. I found every film he’s made since ranging from disappointing to poor. Here’s hoping this is a return to form.

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DarkImbecile
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Re: Beirut (Brad Anderson, 2018)

#8 Post by DarkImbecile » Wed Apr 18, 2018 3:59 pm

I actually wouldn't attribute much of what I liked about Beirut to Anderson's perfectly competent but unexceptional direction; Tony Gilroy's script (which he apparently wrote 20+ years ago) provides the structure that does the work of establishing and balancing the multiple factions jostling for advantage and attempting to outmaneuver their rivals in 1980s Lebanon, and also is responsible for the well-realized protagonist that gives Hamm the space to give what I'd argue is his best performance (non-Draper division). That the film manages in less than two hours to get across as much as it does of the geopolitical realities of the region at the time, the development of Hamm's character, and the stakes of the ever-changing spycraft and diplomatic efforts of the various players with an economy and clarity that makes the resolutions of these threads feel satisfying and earned is to Gilroy's credit.

That's not to say that Anderson doesn't do plenty to keep a large cast on point and capably evoke the setting of war-ravaged, divided Beirut (though using lower resolution drone footage from the Syrian civil war as a stand in for urban destruction coverage is a trend that probably needs to stop), but some of first-time feature cinematographer Bjorn Charpentier's shaky work comes across as cheap Greengrass mimicry and the tension in the story does go slack more often than it should. This is the kind of story and set of characters that someone like Michael Mann or Kathryn Bigelow would have orchestrated beautifully, and while that's not really a fair standard to hold a journeyman director with a limited budget to, one can't help but ponder how much better this could have been if a major studio had been willing to sink $50-60 million and a stronger directorial force into it.

I've heard complaints that the film features no prominent Lebanese characters, which actually seems totally appropriate to the film's view of the country and its capital as a staging ground for other powers (the U.S., Israel, Syria, Iran, the PLO, and others) to flex their muscles at each other regardless of the resulting consequences for the Lebanese people.

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