A Film That Delivers on the Action but Totally Misses the “Marky-Mark”.
DIRECTED BY PETER BERG/2018
Peter Berg and Mark Wahlberg has become a pretty consistent collaborative team that has produced a mixed bag of films from Lone Survivor, Deepwater Horizon, Patriot’s Day, and now their latest, Mile 22. What this collaborative team can be counted on is solid action and an adrenaline-fueled pacing. Mile 22, however is hampered by paper-thin backstories and unnecessary character traits, that may make this the weakest film of Peter and Mark’s collaborative works.
Mark Wahlberg plays James Silva, a member of an elite government special ops unit that he describes as the third option when diplomacy and military options are off the table. His team consists of Alice Kerr (Lauren Cohen- The Walking Dead), Sam Snow (Ronda Rousey- Furious 7), and several others who are named after chess pieces, all being coordinated through sophisticated communication equipment and the latest technology with Bishop (John Malkovich- In the Line of Fire, Red) calling the shots in their earpieces.
When Alice’s informant Li Noor (Iko Uwais- The Raid), in a Southeast Asian country, shows up at the American embassy with a disc that provides the location of six vials of material that could be used in a dirty bomb, the team must act. The disc will slowly erase itself in eight hours unless James and his team extract him from the country, but the host country, being aided by the election-hacking Russians, are going to try to stop the team from making it the twenty-two miles from the embassy to a landing strip where a top secret military plane will land for only ten minutes to pick up Li. Can they make it?
As long as you focus on the action, which is elevated anytime Iko Uwais is involved, this film will be a lot of fun and will move at a quick pace, barely letting you recover before the next big action set-piece kicks in. This film is brutally violent, and f-bombs are gratuitously tossed around, as if both were trying to ensure that this film would earn its hard-R rating. If you stop to look at some of the details of it all, however, you will find that this film totally misses the “Marky-mark”.
A background story on Wahlberg’s James Silva is that his mind works faster than anyone else and that to slow himself down, he has to snap a big, thick rubber-band around his wrist to keep him focused at speeds so that others can keep up. It also helps contain his intense anger that is ready to boil at any second. It is almost like they are setting him up to be a version of Ben Affleck’s Christian Wolff, from The Accountant, except here, any such designation (of anything) doesn’t play into the actual narrative arc of the story….at all. So it becomes useless information. He could just as easily be called a “hot-head” by his colleagues and that would be all of the background we would need, because Wahlberg just is mad. That is his character, nothing more to it. The part about thinking faster than anyone around him pretty much contradicts every action sequence throughout the film which only exists because the opposing forces that dog his team through the 22-mile trek to deliver Li are already a step ahead of him. So apparently, his mind doesn’t work faster than anyone else.
Lauren Cohen is a fan-favorite on The Walking Dead and she does a great job in her action scenes here, but if Wahlberg’s character is just angry, her character is also just as one-note. This is not due to her ability to act, but rather the fault of the script and direction. Her character Alice is just, and I have to use this word based on what is discussed in the film, emotional. I hate that term, especially when its applied to a female character as it has so often been used to dismiss the complexity that exists in female roles and is applied only to make female characters appear to be less than their male counterparts on screen when they go through tough personal trials, brushing it away as “they’re just emotional”. Here, though, Peter Berg seems to have wanted this depiction of Alice as the scenes in the film only focus on Alice being an elite-military assassin, but one who is so preoccupied with the fact that her husband is divorcing her and that she can’t be around her daughter who wants to know what to add to a baking recipe, that she isn’t able to focus like the male members of the team. We see Alice lose it constantly as she breaks phones, interrogates Li, and even in the field on an op. At other times, she seems calm as she reassures the team that James is just a hothead, only for the scene to change and then she is given another freak-out moment.
With more character development, these moments of losing her cool would make more sense, but like the character of James, Alice is underdeveloped in that she is either calm, or emotionally acting out due to her being unable to handle a domestic conflict thousands of miles away. James even tells her that she knew the cost of this when she signed up for this elite unit. I feel that this was the way the script from Lea Carpenter was trying to even acknowledge its own ineptness by confessing “I know that rationally this makes no sense, but it has to look like we are diving deep into a backstory just for the sake of trying to get you to care more for these characters, not because it adds anything of value to the story itself”. Again, these details are rarely important to the overall narrative.
Had Mile 22 simply set up the story as a need to deliver one man 22 miles away, providing needed details on who is trying to stop them, and why, this film would have been a very satisfying end of the summer blockbuster season. Instead, the story is bogged down by its own needless details that undermine everything it tries to tell us about its characters, proving the whole thing to be a useless effort, apart from some of the solid action scenes. The cast is much more talented than they are presented here. The film already sets itself up for a sequel (with Lea Carpenter already listed on IMDb as working on the next script), but that may prove to be a distance that is too great for most to want to travel…especially after having already put in 22 miles, with very little payoff.