Mile 22 (2018)

Mile 22.pngDirector: Peter Berg
Running Time: 94 Minutes
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Iko Uwais, John Malkovich, Lauren Cohan, Ronda Rousey, Nikolai Nikolaeff, Carlo Alban, Terry Kinney, Poorna Jagannathan, Sam Medina

After a trilogy of bringing real-life tales of human loss to the screen, director Peter Berg and star Mark Wahlberg change gears, intent on delivering an action flick centred around government espionage. It's understandable to want a change of pace, but if this is the result, perhaps they should've waited a bit longer.

Working for an American strike team named Overwatch, black ops agent James Silva (Mark Wahlberg) is tasked with escorting a highly valuable asset named Li Noor (Iko Uwais), who holds life threatening information. He must get Li across 22 miles to a plan out of the country, but the path is swarming with trigger happy enemy forces.

Mark Wahlberg supposedly plays a brilliant agent, demonstrated through his character traits of snap an elastic band around his wrist, and solving blank jigsaw puzzles. In an interview, Peter Berg described the character as "the first bipolar action hero", which is an interesting idea, but fails to make up for how uninteresting our lead actually is. The idea here seems to be that snarky quips, with swears peppered in, and a tragic backstory, the latter delivered in an info-dump over the opening credits, is a good shortcut to make a character interesting. Unsurprisingly, it turns out not to be. If anything, Lauren Cohan would make for a more interesting lead, because there's at least some attempt to characterise her, and give her a personality.

Despite playing a walking plot device, one would hope that the casting of Iko Uwais would allow for his physical talents to be portrayed on the screen. In a bizarre move, he is allowed to show off his talents, but they're vastly dulled by an onslaught of cuts during the action scenes, making it look indistinguishable from Hollywood's various action scenes, usually done to get around the insertion of stunt doubles. It's just another waste of the skills he demonstrated in The Raid films and Headshot, leaving one to wonder why they bothered casting such a gifted star if that was the outcome.

Suffice to say, Uwais isn't the only one who comes off poorly in the action scenes. Whether bullets, fists, or grenades fly, it's routinely difficult to make out what's going on, thanks to how choppy, headache inducing, and downright incomprehensible these scenes actually are. One's left theorising how drunk the cameraman was, or if they were actually a tumble dryer, in an attempt to work out why this is the end result.

There's little to say about the remainder of the characters. John Malkovich appears, dons a noticeable wig, and clearly sleepwalks throughout, in a performance that's only committed to the paycheck. Despite the films insistence, there's no emotion felt for the characters, who are portrayed as one-dimensional, and there to be on the receiving end of heavy handed monologues. But what's key here is the way Berg amateurishly rids the film of tension. When the ensuing events are inter-cut with a hearing, taking place after the unfolding narrative, the tension is lost. Key aspects are callously revealed so early on, it feels like a rookie mistake.

The messy and indecipherable action is just one of the key problems in Mile 22. A chaotic and amateurish looking shambles, the best of luck to anyone trying to make sense of it all.