A film review by Craig J. Koban August 30, 2018

MILE 22 j

2018, R, 90 mins.


Mark Wahlberg as James Silva  /  Lauren Cohan as Alice  /  John Malkovich as Bishop  /  Ronda Jean Rousey as Sam Snow  /  Iko Uwais as Li Noor  /  Alexandra Vino as Sergeant Thomas  /  Nikolai Nikolaeff as Aleksander  /  Sam Medina as Axel

Directed by Peter Berg  /  Written by Lea Carpenter



The new espionage action thriller MILE 22 is one of the most frustratingly over-directed and hyperactively edited films that I've seen this year.  It's almost as if director Peter Berg was high on massive quantities of speed while making it, seeing as the resulting film is so headache inducing and eye straining that cinemas should be handing out Aspirins to patrons after they exit their screenings of it.  

This is a shame, because buried deep beneath this film's overbearing aesthetic is a decent thriller waiting to emerge, which is made all the more disappointing because when Berg is on his A-game (see DEEPWATER HORIZON, PATRIOT'S DAY, and the terribly underrated THE KINGDOM) he's an unstoppable filmmaking force.  Yet, his disorienting stylistic trappings here aren't MILE 22's only failings; its plot is borderline incompressible at times and, more or less, lacks genuine suspense, which is an absolute requirement for this genre. 

MILE 22 also represents the fourth collaboration between Berg and star Mark Wahlberg, and their cinematic marriage has usually yielded stellar results.  In many ways, the tandem seems to be working in successful harmony as of late churning out solid populist films with a strong jingoistic spirit.  MILE 22 sort of ends that qualitative momentum for the pair, which is certainly not assisted by the fact that Wahlberg gives a cringe worthy display of obtrusive overacting as his toxically dislikeable protagonist.  Now, there's nothing inherently wrong with an actor chewing scenery and playing cantankerous heroes that are oddly appealing, but the character Wahlberg inhabits here has virtually zero redeeming qualities, which makes it awfully hard for any audience member to form any level of emotional buy in.  There has rarely been such a thoroughly unpleasant lead character in a Hollywood action thriller as much as there is here. 



MILE 22 opens with reasonable intrigue and has a fairly well oiled prologue, during which time a top secret government Overwatch team infiltrates and raids a Russian safe house in order to track down the parts to a potential dirty bomb that could wreak havoc on American soil.  The team is comprised of leader James Silva (Wahlberg) and, working under him, Alice (Lauren Cohan), Sam (Ronda Rousey) and "Bishop" (John Malkovich, sporting one of the most obviously fake toupees of his career) as Silva's clandestine eye in the sky.  This Overwatch team is so top secret that, with every new mission, they have to resign their respective CIA posts - their cover jobs - in order to complete them.  

So, yeah, that top secret. 

After the aforementioned raid leads to the extermination of everyone in the Russian safe house Silva's team finds themselves back home on American soil seeking out a rogue foreign government agent name Li Noor (THE RAID REDEMPTION's Iko Uwais), who is one of the final pieces of the puzzle to finally locating those pesky missing dirty bomb pieces...that is only if he's granted immunity and asylum by the U.S. government.  He agrees to help Silva and his squad, but not until he's safely transported onto a plane and in the air, during which time he'll finally disclose where those bomb pieces are.  Silva and Team Overwatch agree, but there's one big problem: The plane in question that's about to land is on a strict time table and will only remain on the ground for a limited period of time (ten minutes), meaning that Silva's A-team has to quickly transport their asset across 22 miles of cityscape littered with multiple adversaries that want them all dead.  Failure to get Noor to the plane (and get the Intel) could lead to a break out of World War III, so...no pressure. 

If there is one reason to see MILE 22 then it would be for the magnetic screen presence of Indonesian action star Uwais, who previously showed in the two RAID films that, like a Jackie Chan before him, he's capable of being a one man highlight reel of dazzling stunt choreography.  He's actually credited with engineering the rapid fire fight sequences in MILE 22, and during a few key moments we get to see Uwais engage in full on bone crunching and artery spewing kick ass mode.  One of the film's highlights is a virtuoso scene involving the limitlessly dexterous and extremely lethal Noor fend himself off from two impostor medics while he's handcuffed to a hospital gurney.  This showdown - as well as a few others littered throughout MILE 22 - amply display's Noor's immeasurable talents and commanding screen presence.  You almost wish that the entirety of MILE 22 was just about him. 

But, for Pete's sake, Berg's spastic direction all but betrays Uwais' stunning choreography, seeing as these action beats - and, hell, even quieter dialogue exchange scenes between characters - are so chopped and cut up into a bewildering number of unnecessary edits that it all but erodes any semblance of symmetry and flow to them.  The overkilled visuals in MILE 22 truly hurt what Uwais brings to the table, almost to the point of inspiring the question as to why anyone would think it would be a good idea to bring him on board in the first place if his contributions to the film couldn't be shown off in clear and precise detail.  Another off-putting aspect is how Berg and his editorial team fracture up the simplest of on-screen moments into a flurry of hyper cuts to the point of pure disorientation.  There are some sequences between characters that are incredulously comprised of so many bloody shots and angles that even basic spatial relationships between them becomes impossible to follow.  MILE 22 is indicative of the worst possible trends in modern action filmmaking, showing Berg making the cardinal blunder of confusing a quantity of shots and edits with drumming up action tension and intrigue. 

You'd at least hope that the film would make up for its visual indiscretions with appealing stars leading the charge, but...nope.   Beyond being given virtually no character development outside of what we see in a hastily assembled opening title card montage, Wahlberg's Silva is a non-entity here as a would-be engaging anti-hero.  Silva is a laundry list of hard nosed action film character clichés: He's mean and edgy, verbally unfiltered and says whatever is on his mind, and has clear cut mental issues, which is reinforced by his character constantly - and annoyingly - snapping a rubber band on his wrist throughout the movie.  If given to the right actor, Silva could have been an agreeably hot headed motormouth with a proverbial screw loose (imagine a LETHAL WEAPON era Mel Gibson and you'll understand), but Wahlberg here gives into such laughably histrionic performance extremes that he comes off as an SNL comedian doing a parody version of himself.  Wahlberg commits himself to the part, but with no apparent ability to effectively dial himself in. 

The film's screenplay is almost as schizophrenic as its direction and main star's acting.  The overall plotting itself is both chaotic and confusing, and it struggles in terms of finding ways to balance the film's pulse pounding action with more introspective moments of conspiratorial intrigue.  The other problem is that it the story is fragmented into too many unrelated tangents and different time periods, which adds to the narrative confusion, like a weirdly shoehorned in subplot featuring Wahlberg giving his analysis of the Overwatch team's mission looking back on it while talking to...well...it's never really established, which is awkwardly sprinkled into the narrative with little rhyme or reason.  Then there is a wholly bizarre subplot of Alice's damaged marriage and, not kidding, her hatred of a new divorce app that is her only available outlet to communicate with her ex-husband and her semi-estranged children.  What...purpose...does...this...serve? 

Ultimately, I'm not even entirely sure what MILE 22 was even trying to say about its characters, their duplicitous lives, and the covert nature of their line of work, that frequently puts their lives - and the lives of innocents - on the line.  When all is said and done, the film is essentially one big escort mission/chase sequence requiring the heroes to get their asset from one area to the next without being captured or killed.  That's it.  MILE 22 has one saving grace, I guess, of never wearing out its welcome; considering its simplistic scripting, the film is mercifully short at 90 minutes, yet paradoxically inspires frequent watch checking.  The end result is, regrettably, the worst offering of the Wahlberg/Berg team-up, a political action thriller lacking in thrills, visual and storytelling coherence, and, when it boils right down to it, a reason to justify its existence in the late summer season.  If I had an elastic band on my wrist during my screening I would have shot it at the screen out of disappointment for the talent wasted on display. 

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