19th September 2018 (UK)
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.
Mark Wahlberg, Lauren Cohan, Iko Uwais
Since 2013, director Peter Berg and Mark Wahlberg have been frequent collaborators, bringing real life all-American heroes to the big screen with the likes of the 2013 biographical solider story Lone Survivor, 2016’s oil rig disaster Deepwater Horizon and 2017’s Boston bombing drama Patriots Day. For the most part quite successfully too, respectfully honouring the true life events their films are based on whilst also creating exciting cinema with heart. Their latest offering, Mile 22, is a bloody espionage action thriller that is entirely fiction and it’s this transition from fact to fable that has unfortunately become a major stumbling block for the usually strong ‘Wahl/Berg’ duo.
Mile 22 follows James Silva (Wahlberg) a hyper aggressive, loose cannon CIA operative that is tasked with transporting an Indonesian special forces defector (played by Iko Uwais) 22 miles from the busy streets of a fictitious Southeast Asian city called Indocarr, to the airport where he shall be safety taken to the USA in exchange for the whereabouts of missing chemical weapons. Russian operatives hiding in the shadows suggest there’s something bigger at play however.
Starting with a promising house raid, Mile 22 certainly doesn’t waste any time getting down to the nitty gritty, gory action, but it also doesn’t take long to reveal its true colours. Like Wahlberg’s extremely uncharismatic lead, the film is a hyper-macho, overcompensating, angry brute that quickly becomes flaccid. It lacks anything resembling charm, suspense, intrigue or anything other than grisly albeit mediocre action, making it rather dull to sit through.
Wahlberg applies his usual “hero” shtick here, which better resembles American idiot over American Hero. His acting is ropey at best, which is a shame because there are moments when you can clearly see he’s trying to give this CIA nut-job some depth, but in the end he’s trying to draw blood from a stone. With a better script, and a film that focused more on the central character rather than a plot on autopilot, Mile 22 could have been a frighteningly gripping look at the degenerating effect of working such a job.
The supporting cast also fail to make any significant impact. Lauren Cohan of The Walking Dead fame is flat throughout, but really has nothing to work with excluding a shoe string plot-line about how she is going through a divorce. John Malkovich is simply there as additional scenery decoration, occasionally spewing secret service jargon every 15 minutes. If anyone rises above mediocrity it’s The Raid star Iko Uwais, who is at least effective in conveying that there’s more going on behind his quiet exterior.
Speaking of Uwais, the immensely talented martial artist responsible for some of the best fight choreography seen in the past 20 years. He is given two hand-to-hand fight scenes in Mile 22 which are, as you would expect, thrilling. Or they would be if they were not shot with a shaking camera, lit with dull fading bulbs, and edited with a choppiness you can find off the coast of Plymouth this time of year. A dreadful shame. The rest of the action is much the same: confusing and difficult to follow. Which is rather baffling considering Peter Berg’s track record, especially in Patriots Day, where he very successfully constructed tense and suspenseful set pieces as well as impactful action.
Thankfully the film does zip along at a brisk pace, saving it from becoming excruciating viewing. There’s also a twist ending that is mostly well done and somewhat satisfying, but also renders everything about the film pointless. I’m unsure how I really feel about the narrative turn; like the extreme violence splattered in the fight scenes, it’s something I became numb to.
On a technical level the film plays it safe. Cinematography is bland and uninspired, but it gets the job done. There are some odd choices for camera placement and movement that feel very unnatural and draw attention to themselves in a negative way. Apart from a decent main theme the score is another forgettable composition. But I will give credit to the sound design and mixing, which I had no complaints with.
The road to Mile 22 is a frantic and bloody one, but it’s also a journey made up of joyless performances, stale action and a general air of mediocrity. Just cruise on past.
A show stealing turn from Iko Uwais
Choppy editing and dull lighting make the action scenes impossible to follow
Ultra-violent action scenes become stale
No depth to characters