Mile 22, 2018.
Directed by Peter Berg.
Starring Mark Wahlberg, Iko Uwais, Lauren Cohan, Ronda Rousey, Carlo Alban, Natasha Goubskaya, Sam Medina, Keith Arthur Bolden, Jenique Hendrix, Chae-rin Lee, Billy Smith, Myke Holmes, Emily Skeggs, Terry Kinney, Brandon Scales, Poorna Jagannathan, Elle Graham, Nikolai Nikolaeff, Kate Rigg, David Garelik, Peter Berg, and John Malkovich
An elite American intelligence officer, aided by a top-secret tactical command unit, tries to smuggle a mysterious police officer with sensitive information out of the country.
Listen. I’ve beaten the WahlBerg drum enough throughout my career (Peter Berg and Mark Wahlberg’s celebrity couple name). Please reference my positive critical takes on Patriots Day, Lone Survivor and Deepwater Horizon. Their dudebro chemistry on and behind the camera makes for grittily tense, zoom-on-faces, savage energy at times. Alas, Mile 22 exists as 2018’s least interesting ghost ops bullet frenzy – sputtering bloodsoaked brutality like a criminal gasping his or her’s last breaths for ninety straight minutes. Not even Indonesia’s Iko Uwais and his fast-as-lightning Pencak Silat moves can awaken audiences from their aggro shooter coma.
Wahlberg stars as James Silva, a military superstar whose unlisted government department is responsible for stopping the next 9/11 from happening. He commands the CIA’s “most highly-prized and least-understood unit.” While in embassy territory one day, suspicious local officer Li Noor (Iko Uwais) turns himself in with vital biochemical warfare data encrypted on a self-destructive drive. If Silva’s team – comprised of Alice Kerr (Lauren Cohan), Sam Snow (Ronda Rousey), and others – can escort their new asset 22 miles to freedom, the data will be unlocked. It’s an objective so crucial that end-all “Hand of God” Overwatch is called in, led by Bishop (John Malkovich). Failure is not an option.
Did I mention there’s an introductory mission sequence where Russian marks hiding out in a quiet suburb residence are eliminated by Silva’s strike force? And as Noor is being transported, Berg continually cuts back to a Russian surveillance aircraft monitoring every single movement of Silva’s squad? Right. Totally not involved somehow.
It’s unclear what message Berg is trying to send with Mile 22. How are we supposed to interpret Silva’s interrogation banter that claims you’ve never seen Russian collusion like this (specifically referencing Russia’s Trump campaign involvement)? What do all the Donald Trump and Barack Obama comparisons mean (bobbleheads included)? How is it that Russians can so easily manipulate Americans to their will? Is there more to Silva and Noor’s mirroring “meditation” methods (Sival’s rubber bracelet snap, Noor’s finger tapping)? It’s almost like – just kidding, no more sarcasm. We get it, Mr. Berg. Political angst is forced into every manageable opening with the subtlety of a gunshot to the head. Violence in the name of failed commentary. Nothing more, probably less.
Considering how my IMDB search of cast names relied completely on actor’s faces, it’s fair to say Mile 22 is made up of expendable agent husks. Intelligence jarheads whose most “normal” professional activity is dying. Silva only exists to verbally harass his female colleagues in their “private” locker room or sarcastically insult enemy hitmen as an egotistical stroke – the Mark Wahlberg way. Kerr’s subplot about motherhood is rarely good for an emotional boost, while characters like Snow and “Other Lead Guy In Team Too Generic To Define” exist so Silva can throw their birthday cake slices on the ground (like, that actually happens). Ass chewin’, trigger pullin’, grim hands of death who exist only to create or become corpses. Dogtags with no names imprinted.
Granted, Mr. Uwais is not included in the above summation given how he fights circles around Wahlberg’s lesser bruiser. Silva’s a crack-shot and throws people really really hard, but Noor puts his CIA protection to shame. With or without handcuffs. From running up walls to slitting throats on broken car window panes to suplex face-planting stronger henchmen into concrete floors, Uwais wastes no acrobatic punishment opportunities. Fists and kicks of fury straight from The Raid/Headshot/Beyond Skyline, no steps lost.
While some action thrillers are high-energy and might be considered “fun,” Mile 22 is as dour, one-note and needlessly flat as they come. It’s a rinse-and-repeat cycle of headshots and hiding. Silva’s convoy is attacked, bodies drop, a team member is lost, and they escape via new automobile. Cameras twirl in an attempt to capture every firefight or smackdown, but cinematography struggles to keep pace with Uwais’ double-time speed. Silva’s tactical combat negates excitement – just record all the helmeted thugs who get blasted in the dome – but Berg doesn’t seem ready for Uwais’ mastery of hurricane choreography. In an action movie, it helps to actually see the action. Otherwise, you’re just experiencing the same target practice advancement from Silva’s team over and over.
Mile 22 is Peter Berg at his most unfocused. Mark Wahlberg at his most “shouting bad monologues at villains to the point where even John Malkovich’s character asks him to stop shouting bad monologues at villains DURING THE MOVIE.” Terrorist espionage death-dealing at is dullest, to the point where Iko ‘effing Uwais can’t save face even when bloodied, exhausted, and leaving every ounce of energy on an interrogation room floor covered in broken glass shards. And that hopeful franchise ending? Everything about this dull unchallenging thriller screams wobbly wheels, which eventually fall off somewhere between “how did you not see this coming” and “oh look, more headshots.”
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★★ / Movie: ★★
Matt spends his after-work hours posting nonsense on the internet instead of sleeping like a normal human. He seems like a pretty cool guy, but don’t feed him after midnight just to be safe (beers are allowed/encouraged). Follow him on Twitter/Instagram (@DoNatoBomb).