MILE 22 – Review
Here’s the newest effort from another prolific actor/director film making duo. While some directors (Quentin Tarantino, Wes Anderson, Charles O. Russell) have a group of actors they repeatedly work with (on stage I guess they’d be the “rep” company), other directors like to cast the same actor in several of their projects. From the “golden age of Hollywood’ there were duos like John Huston with Humphrey Bogart, and John Ford and John Wayne. In the late seventies Martin Scorsese’s lead of choice was Robert DeNiro, while in recent years Leonardo DiCaprio has been a frequent lead. With Steven Spielberg it’s Tom Hanks (after many flicks with Richard Dreyfuss and Harrison Ford). Now in theatres is the fourth collaboration of actor/director Peter Berg and lead actor Mark Wahlberg. Their previous team-ups were all based on true events: LONE SURVIVOR, DEEPWATER HORIZON, and PATRIOT’S DAY. Now they’ve made a go-for-broke, fictional, high-octane spy thriller, since Wahlberg usually stars in a big Summer action flick. But why so late in the season? For that, we’ve got to go the extra mile. Well several more really, all the way to MILE 22.
As the flick begins, we’ve got go back a few miles, years actually, to an operation conducted by an undercover (very deep undercover) branch of the CIA (like the IMF of Mission:Impossible, it’s “disavowed by the director”). James Silva (Wahlberg) is part of the team commanded by Bishop (John Malkovich), who’s viewing the whole thing from a secret locale along with a crew of agents monitoring live streams from hidden cameras and drones. Despite a few casualties, Silva and his squad get the job done, eliminating some undercover Russian agents working out of a suburban US. home. Cut to the opening titles, run over a montage/ bio of Silva (orphaned, personality issues, quick to violence, and a tactical savant). Jump to the modern day, to the US Embassy in Indocarr (?), where Silva and two of his teammates Alice (Lauren Cohen) and Sam (Ronda Rousey) are stationed. Everyone’s on edge because several containers of a radioactive powder AKA “fear dust” have been stolen. The tip from one of Alice’s informants proved to be a dud. Everyone is then shocked when said informant, local cop Li Noor (Iko Uwais) crashes his car through one of the barriers. He flashes a small cell phone-like pad at the gate cameras. When he’s brought in, he tells Alice and her co-workers that the device has a hard drive with all the location info on the toxins. But only he has the access code to stop the timed erasing of that info. And he’ll only give that code when he’s put on a plane headed out of his homeland. Shortly after some local officials arrive demanding that Noor be given to him, followed by an assassination attempt in the embassy infirmary. With time running out, Bishop’s team is called in to co-ordinate the 22 mile exodus from the embassy to a hidden runway. Is Noor legit? And can they get him (“the package”) to the plane despite a near-endless gauntlet of killers?
Yes there are lots of battles, but few compare to the fight these talented actors had to wage against a clunky script loaded with one-note abrasive characters. The most aggressively obnoxious may be Silva, who proves to be a poor role for the charismatic talented Wahlberg. It’s as though they took everything charming about his macho motor-mouth in THE DEPARTED (which nabbed him an Oscar nom) and twisted it into an arrogant,in your face” bully. You’d want Silva to have your back in a firefight, but you’d dread having any sort of calm conversation with him. Dismissive and cruel aren’t the usual qualities of a thriller hero (and there’s talk of a trilogy). Cohen doesn’t fare much better as the always on edge Alice, who is screaming at her ex-husband (oddly played by Berg) as they play an emotional “tug of war’ over their pre-teen daughter. This leads to her flinging the phone against a wall (wonder how many she goes through in a week). So terrific for so long as Maggie on TV’s “The Walking Dead”, Cohen can’t bring much humanity to another of the script’s screeching “spooks”. The most engaging of the crew may be MMA champ Rousey as the affable Sam, who doesn’t tolerate the tantrums of Silva and Alice. Naturally, this seals her doom. Speaking of champs, martial arts master Uwais is a compelling physical presence, moving like lightning at the center of the film’s best sequences. It’s a shame that his character of Noor seems so aloof and enigmatic with an unchanging sneer, never connecting with any other characters. And then there’s the usually strange Malkovich regulated to be the guy at the screen (he’s in a suit with Converse sneakers…how quirky), barking commands and counting down the minutes. At east he’s sporting a severe buzz-cut hairpiece.
Berg assembles the film in a blender, never letting a shot last more than a few seconds, and making sure the camera is always in motion. This may be an attempt to “amp’ up the tension, but this rapid-fire, staccato style merely wears us down and quickly becomes tedious, as does the near-constant barrage of “f-bombs” (ooo, so edgy). When the screen’s not full of smoke from one of the many explosions (they loves their grenades), the photography is murky and muddy, obscuring much of the picture. The opening attack on the two story house on Christmas Lane (really) feels somewhat realistic with the disorientation of the team, but the endless trek through the city streets becomes repetitive despite the different venues, going from a crowded bakery to a low-rent apartment complex (the Paradise, uh uh), which just reminds us of the superior quality of the RAID films that Uwais headlined. And in the final moments we get a ridiculous triple-cross denouncement that kicks the audience in the…pants…as they flee the theatre. MILE 22 literally screeches to a dead end, and makes us appreciate Cruise, Damon, and Craig even more. Still, that fight in the medical examination room is pretty good, so it gets…
1.5 Out of 5