Mile 22 (2018)
Mile 22 (2018)

Genre: Action Running Time: 1 hr. 35 min.

Release Date: August 17th, 2018 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Peter Berg Actors: Mark Wahlberg, Lauren Cohan, Iko Uwais, John Malkovich, Ronda Rousey, Carlo Alban, Sam Medina, Keith Arthur Bolden, Jenique Hendrix, Emily Skeggs

 


 

W

hen a large quantity of highly-radioactive cesium goes missing, the top-secret, elite paramilitary group Ground Branch must track down the deadly dust before mayhem erupts. Members James Silva (Mark Wahlberg), Alice Kerr (Lauren Cohan), Samantha Snow (Ronda Rousey), and William Douglas (Carlo Alban) receive a tip-off from an informant that leads them to a shipping container that only offers further questions. When that same source, ex-military operative Li Noor (Iko Uwais), arrives at a U.S. Embassy in Southeast Asia, holding an encrypted drive with the location of the missing cesium, demanding asylum in exchange for its unlocking, Silva and his team are assigned to safeguard the defector. But transporting Noor twenty-two miles to a covert airstrip on the other side of town will place the entire group in a desperate fight for their lives against a corrupt militiaman (Sam Medina) and his limitless army of killers.

It begins with a tense opening sequence, which fuses complex surveillance with hi-tech gear and significant firepower. But what should be a quick infiltration of a house turns into a bloodbath of destruction and casualties – following along with what most action-oriented pictures would do, specifically to designate a team of special forces operatives, their fallibilities, and their camaraderie. Unfortunately, thanks to some exceptionally frenetic camerawork, it’s also a bit confusing. Director Peter Berg’s signature style is overflowing with rapid cuts, sudden zooms or invasive close-ups, hurried angle shifts, and general frenzy; and this becomes something of a problem for every subsequent action moment.

Martial arts combat and extreme violence (some of which is undeniably creative, perhaps borrowing from the excessiveness of “The Raid”) are intermittently effective, yet the editing continues to plague the audience’s ability to peruse the choreography on display. Several exchanges of gunfire and flying fists involve so many cuts and flurries of unidentifiable movements that the stunts can’t be admired (which is a great shame, considering Iko Uwais is a champion in martial arts). At certain points, it’s just a blur of colors.

While the main premise appears to be that of a political thriller, it’s a thin veil for what eventually transforms into a blood-soaked gauntlet of anarchic warfare. A one-man-army (though there are a handful of characters who contribute to the primary bedlam) must maneuver through hostile terrain, contending with a perpetual state of being outnumbered and outgunned. And somewhere along the lines, the Russians are the bad guys. At least when the action hits, it hits hard, tackling the scenarios of ambushes and outflanking with generous helpings of brutality and devastation. It’s terribly overdramatic, but genuinely intense. What works best about this repetitive ruination is the seriousness with which the picture approaches it; it’s so cheerless and ferocious, as if a Rambo adventure, but with the added realism of governmental corruption. Curiously, the violence is so severe at times that it practically becomes comical.

Perhaps the biggest detriment to the film is the antihero – a man who takes his job at the U.S. Embassy so insincerely that he amuses himself by creating diplomatic disorders. He’s uncaring, unsympathetic, insensitive, a chatterbox, and a continual curser. When he’s not barking orders and unleashing colorful insults on his team, he’s absorbing expletive-riddled tongue-lashings from his own superiors (clearly, he learns from the best). If it weren’t for the fact that everyone else in the film is equally rough around the edges, Silva could have been the villain. Meanwhile, Alice contends with a heated divorce arbitration, which serves only to distract, and Samantha can’t quite seem to enjoy a piece of birthday cake. With such a swift running time and nonstop onscreen motion (there’s never a second of calm), it’s strange to include character development that humanizes but fails to provoke empathy. And by the conclusion, it’s all for nothing, as the plot grinds to a halt, as if only the first chapter to a series of adventures. “Mile 22” reveals itself as little more than an exercise in barbarous spy games; it’s not really a complete film, but a single mission soaked in energetic savagery. At least the tone is consistent and uncompromisingly bleak.

– The Massie Twins

  • 4/10