‘MILE 22’ is the latest collaboration between Peter Berg and Mark Wahlberg. It also stars Lauren Cohan and Iko Uwais, with a side of Ronda Rousey and John Malkovich. This story-line centers on an American intelligence officer and his tactical unit as they try to escort a foreign officer with sensitive information out of the country in an attempt to stop a potential mass attack on the civilian population.
Generally, I enjoy the direction of Peter Berg. I loved his first film ‘Very Bad Things’ and I still think ‘The Kingdom’ is one of his most underrated works. As for Wahlberg, he is hit-and-miss for me. I think he gets roles at times that are beyond his skill-set, but regardless he has a strong screen presence, particularly in more action-themed roles. The three prior Berg/Wahlberg collaborations were successes to me. Add that with the fact the action-thriller genre is without question one of my favorites, and you could say I was excited for what this film had the potential to deliver.
I am often apologetic to the genre. I still think ‘Den of Thieves’ is a fantastic film. But there is not a lot of wiggle room when being apologetic to the faults this film had because I walked out of the theater surprisingly disappointed. Before getting into the issues I had with this one let’s first cover the positives. There were some genuinely tense moments. The gun-fights, despite the story wrapped around them being zero help, were able to build tension and they had me on edge a couple of times. The shootouts were for the most part well-shot and orchestrated to capture a gritty, visceral tone that fit the atmosphere of the plot nicely.
Iko Uwais was the shining light of the film. He was the most authentic of the characters as the rest felt like walking banter machines. His efforts in the action department, despite the lack of skilled camera work to film it, was commendable. Uwais however did have some solid fight-sequences that were able to give American film-goers a small taste of his capabilities. Although if you have seen his past foreign films you will know what this gave us in terms of his range, was only a small fraction.
Regardless, he has a few good sequences that are the bright spots. But the action alone in this movie was not enough to make it an entertaining watch. And with no substance to the plot or characters it just came off as empty violence that failed to generate the level of intensity it should have. Which leads me into the issues I had with this one. First being how the action was shot overall. It was your typical hand-held, shaky-cam technique with an over-use of cuts. The scenes do not come off fluid at all which I feel is unacceptable when you had the performers to pull it off.
I watched some B-roll footage of the infirmary fight scene to learn more about how it was put together and I noticed something very interesting. In the commentary Peter Berg speaks on how impressed he was with Uwais and his body of work, and how he can choreograph his own fight-sequences. Yet while watching the footage, Berg showcases an extremely hands on approach. Uwais and his team rehearsed and filmed the sequences and it honestly looked more immersive than what the final-cut we see. It’s understandable, this is his film after all.
But given the circumstances I feel Berg insisting on leaving his imprint on every facet of the action. Down to the over-stylizing of how it was edited, and filmed, were all hindrances to the final product. There are no stunt-men that need to me masked over with clever angles and movement. There is no need for slow-motion to break the flow. Set up the cameras, hit the record button, and let Uwias and the team he brought with him make magic for your film, it really is as simple a recipe for success as that.
Now let’s get into the rest of the movie. The story-line was thin. That’s fine. Like I said, I am apologetic with this genre to a fault at times. So, while this story was not the most inventive or layered, there was still more than enough to fill in the gaps between some violent action scenes. But outside annoyances hindered even this bare-bones plot from being able to pass the time with serviceable enjoyment. Two main annoyances to be specific. Those being Wahlberg’s dual time-line performances that gave the film enough shallow bravado for ten movies. I get the point of trying to make his character a complete hard-ass and to imply it’s a must, or even a result of his line of work. That’s doable.
But with no substance to his character, and one presumptuous monologue of self-righteous banter after the other, it simply became laughable. Some live by the notion that to find the richest person in the restaurant you don’t look for the one flashing their wealth. You look for the cheapest tipper. If you want to find the most dangerous person in the room rarely is it the one pounding their chest saying they are. It is often the one sitting there quietly watching. Clearly, Berg and Wahlberg do not operate under that blanket of thinking. This was a collection of scenes that tried to make you think a character was tough, and edgy with a level of blatant effort I cannot remember seeing in a film before.
But this was not enough. We get a second time-line for Wahlberg’s character that is specifically designed to deliver more egotism, and continual exposition as he recants the actions of the mission in a debriefing room. This results in constant babble from the character that is either trying to remind you how dangerous he is or tell the audience what is happening in the story-line and it was just fatiguing after a while. With close-up camera angles that didn’t help build any of the implied intensity. Not to mention the fact he is talking to a person in his line of work giving him no reason to even go off on his tangents.
The rest of the characters were all plug-and-play figures to simply fill out the film. The run-time is short, and it still has filler to pass the time. The story doesn’t show much effort in building any validity and with routine computer overlays that try to give it a cyber-thriller vibe everything just comes off like Hollywood fluff and nothing that can resonate with you. I don’t know if Wahlberg got paid by the word for this role but if he did he made a fortune because he rambles on relentlessly from start-to-finish. If you love the genre you can give it a shot, but I would recommend doing so in the comfort of your own home.