NOT to be confused with the Samuel L Jackson/Kevin Spacey hostage actioner from the late 90s, this tightly plotted if somewhat familiar geopolitical thriller takes us into the multifaceted world of the 1982 Lebanese Civil War.

A decade after leaving Beirut due to his wife being tragically killed in a gunfire attack during a party at his home, former US diplomat Mason Skiles (Jon Hamm) is asked by the CIA to return for a job only he can accomplish.

His mission is to negotiate for the life of an old friend, Cal Riley (Mark Pellegrino), who has been kidnapped. But to Skiles’ surprise, the kidnappers requested him specifically to negotiate the release and upon meeting them face-to-face realises they have a link with his past he wasn’t expecting or ready to confront.

There’s no doubting that the film – less blandly titled “Beirut” in some territories – fits in with an ilk of twisting and turning political thrillers that we’ve seen many times before; Michael Mann’s The Insider and Steven Spielberg’s Munich come to mind as touchstones of soaked-up influence.

But in the hands of reliable director Brad Anderson (who made films like The Machinist and Transsiberian and is a stalwart director of many US TV dramas) and four-time Bourne scriptwriter Tony Gilroy, the politically charged drama unfolds with rewarding tension and a keen sense of time and place in which to ratchet it up.

To some extent it feels like it’s doing some surface-level skimming as opposed to deep digging in the myriad of political complexities involved in its chosen Middle Eastern conflict. But it also knows how to play around with the pieces on the board and how to make them come together into a satisfying final puzzle picture.

It has no real grandness about it but nor does it aim for anything that lofty: the purposefully narrow scope gives the narrative refreshing focus of intention, avoiding grand gestures of spectacle in favour of digging out more complex drama and doesn’t mind getting some dirt under its fingernails doing it.

It’s also lucky enough to be armed with Hamm in the lead – a performer as adept as straight-faced drama as zany comedy – who brings weary-faced pathos to the role of a tough-talking, alcoholic man forced to return to somewhere that reminds him of nothing but personal tragedy and a minefield of professional quandaries.

Asking just enough intriguingly difficult questions of the kind that never have any easy answers, this is efficient and taut filmmaking worth digging into even if it never breaks any particular new ground.