BR: Mile 22 (2018)

February 5, 2019 | By

Film: Weak

Transfer:  Excellent

Extras: n/a

Label:  VVS Films

Region: A

Released:  November 13, 2018

Genre:  Action

Synopsis: An American ghost team helps a killer escape Indonesia in exchange for the code to avert a biological attack.

Special Features:  7 Featurettes: “Overwatch” (1:35) + “Introducing Iko Uwais” (1:47) + “Iko Fight” (1:47) + “Bad Ass Women” (1:44) + “Behind-the-Scenes Stunts” (1:56) + “Modern Combat” (1:55) + “Columbia” (1:45) / Theatrical Trailers /DVD + Digital Copy.

 


 

Review:

Action dramas about characters struggling to get from point A to B within a set time frame aren’t new – Richard Donner tackled one in 13 Blocks, although it ultimately helped shutter his lengthy, box office-friendly career after 2006 –  but they’re rarely successful when the script fails to provide the filmmaker and actors with solid material to deepen increasingly dire circumstances and their characters.

Peter Berg’s filmography as director spans action-centric genres and hybrids, but he’s consistently returned to militaristic, jingoistic productions which deliver the kinetic action goods, but are severely limited by bad scripts; Mile 22 isn’t the extended incoherence and bombast of Battleship (2012), but its otherwise perfectly fine B-grade story of an elite ghost team transporting a double agent to a U.S. bound plane in exchange for secret data is repeatedly hobbled by one of the worst scripts in the director’s C.V.

“This is such shit. This is the worst fucking shit of all the fucked up shit we’ve ever seen. This is the shittiest, most fucked up shit…” — actor Terry Kinney (HBO’s Oz) as superior Johnny Porter spewing parting shots to James Silva (Mark Wahlberg) after a bellicose briefing scene.

Running a tight 94 mins., the first third is an incoherent preamble involving the ghost team, ‘a third degree of patriotism’ tasked with raiding a house of spies during which everyone dies. The mission yields a possible diplomatic disaster, hence Silva being commanded to fix the ‘shittiest fucked up shit’ ever.

A gift to the team comes in the form of Li Noor (amazing Iko Uwais), a double agent from a fictional Indonesian province, armed with a hard drive that contains the locations of deadly caesium powder. Problem A: the data’s encrypted and requires a password locked in Noor’s noggin’. Problem B: he wants a safe flight out of Indonesia in exchange for the data that’s auto-set to degrade with each elapsing minute. Under the supervision of leader Bishop (John Malkovich sporting the worst hairpiece of his career), all the team must do is get Noor to an out-of-the-way runway that’s 22 miles from the U.S. Embassy.

Problem C: the province’s hard arm of the law wants Noor, and make repeated, deadly attempts to kill him and the team, be it public, private, or open urban areas with zero regard for civilian casualties – a preposterous conceit that similarly transformed John Frankenheimer’s car chase film Ronin (1998) into a kinetic but emotionally sterile film.

Ronin runs a good half hour longer and there are early scenes that attempt to deepen its collection of stoic yet unhappy characters, but the two films share an attempt by their respective directors to create a hyper-tense action drama where characters are warrior grade chess pieces, operating on instinct once the relay begins. It’s (rightly) assumed barely anyone will survive the carnage, but under Berg’s chrome editorial scissors, any brief glimpses of the team’s personal sacrifices to keep the world safe are cut and interpolated so badly, they barely resonate.

Silva’s a mental case who snaps an elastic band on his right wrist to dull fear, an action Wahlberg repeats incessantly for Berg’s camera, while Alice Kerr (Lauren Cohan) becomes increasing distraught when her sleazy ex-husband (played by Berg) torments her with teasing phone calls about their daughter, and improper cake recipes. Noor’s emotions are kept in check by counting the joints on his fingers (also captured on camera with obsessive regularity), and the rest of the team members have no charisma beyond their physicality and degrees of toughness.

Berg’s use of surveillance cameras and monitors and gizmos spewing reams of digital code owes much to Tony Scott’s techno thriller Enemy of the State (1998), and there are many parallels between approaches to action and info using image gathering gear, but Mile 22 isn’t about the state tracking a free individual, but of ghosts who move among the shadows to prevent casualty-heavy terrorism.

The inclusion of the Russians seems odd until the finale, which espouses to be a twist (if not an echo of Roger Donaldson’s late Cold War thriller No Way Out) but really sets up the surviving characters for a second outing, should the box office and Berg feel a follow-up tale is necessary. A sequel may well happen: Wahlberg and Berg have collaborated on the prior Lone Survivor (2013), Patriot’s Day (2016), and Deepwater Horizon (2016), yet Mile 22 may be their worst attempt to fuse politics and action.

Mile 22’s first third reveals the amateurish abilities of neophyte screenwriter Lea Carpenter, with (presumably) cleanup material by Graham Roland, but what ultimately renders the film such a mess is Berg’s decision to cut dialogue like an action scene, paring bad dialogue to its absolute worst, and robbing the actors of any nuanced moments beyond fidgeting with rubber bands, joints, and text messages.

Wahlberg also seemed convinced the best way to play loose canon Silva is by bludgeoning colleagues with rants; they’re loud & laughable attempts to cut through diplomatic bullshit, and call liars and blindly obedient, soulless operatives for what they are. It takes a good half hour before Mile 22 shifts to its main gear, which is the film’s raison d’etre: a tense action film. Editors Melissa Lawson Cheung and Colby Parker Jr., the latter a longtime Berg ally, stick with fast, flashy edits, but they are entirely coherent – it’s an appreciative nod to the second unit & stunt directors, and Berg’s own knack for choreographing combat that doesn’t rob the choreography of any fluidity. Even flash cuts are tied to nuances and ripples of movement, so at least in its offering of extended montages, Mile 22 manages to generally satisfy.

Composer Jeff Russo (TV’s Fargo, Legion) was tasked with writing material that wouldn’t get obliterated in sound mix, so, much of what’s heard recalls Harry Gregson-Williams’ processed beats for Tony Scott’s own kinetic thrillers. Russo’s action cues are pretty minimalist, and isolated to sustained bass undulations.

Mile 22 isn’t a good movie – it’s a bungling by an impatient director and hack writers – but Uwais’ artistry with brilliant defensive choreography is arguably what saves the film, taking time away from Wahlberg’s laughable screeds, and forcing Berg to do what he and his crew do best: choreograph mayhem.

 

 

© 2019 Mark R. Hasan

 


 

 


 

External References:
Editor’s BlogIMDB  —  Soundtrack Album — Composer Filmography
 
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Category: Blu-ray / DVD Film Review

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