Mark Wahlberg has never made a truly great action movie. He’s made a lot of decent cable-watch action movies like Shooter, Contraband and 2 Guns. He’s also made three pretty good action dramas in Lone Survivor, Deepwater Horizon and Patriot’s Day. All three of those films were directed by Peter Berg, who helms Wahlberg’s latest effort, Mile 22.
Wahlberg plays James Silva, the leader of an elite task force within the CIA. Silva and his team are in Asia looking for a deadly chemical agent. With no credible leads, in walks Li Noor (Iko Uwais), a local officer who says he has information on where to find the chemical agent. But he won’t give up this information unless Silva and his team can escort Li from the U.S. Embassy to an airfield where Li will seek asylum in America.
Escort a shady individual with sensitive information 22 miles through a southeast Asian city unharmed. Sounds like the workings of a straightforward and competently made action movie. Instead, Berg, Wahlberg and screenwriter Lea Carpenter have made a truly forgettable and ugly film with no redeeming qualities. Mile 22 is easily Berg’s worst film.
Let’s start with Wahlberg. He’s playing a manic genius. We’re told this because he does things like complete “The World’s Most Difficult Puzzles,” quotes Lincoln’s second inauguration and author John Hersey’s book on Hiroshima and constantly snaps a rubber band around his wrist to keep his mind from overloading(?).
All of these “character traits” are in place to make him seem interesting, but instead, he comes off as not only annoying, but perhaps the worst leader ever. He’s constantly yelling at his fellow agents, barging into offices and female shower rooms of fellow superiors and agents and leaving not one but two soldiers behind on the battlefield.
His unpleasantness seeps into his team as well. Lauren Cohen plays Alice Kerr, a character who is constantly dropping F-bombs towards her ex-husband through a divorce app(?). Sam Snow (Ronda Rousey) doesn’t even get an ex-husband. She just scowls a lot. There’s even a character who is in charge of manning a drone. Instead of this person being presented as a soldier with some small shred of empathy, here he’s a frat boy playing video games constantly begging his boss to blow some people up.
Berg doesn’t seem to have any interest in establishing camaraderie among these people so that we care about them in difficult situations. This is shocking considering Berg’s affinity for the military rivals only Michael Bay as a director.
If the characters are forgettable, what about the action? Remember those Berg movies I mentioned earlier? Those had the advantage of being based on real people and events. Berg handles the action in those films with care and bases them in reality.
In Mile 22, Berg not only reverts back to mid-aughts shaky-cam nonsense, he also wastes the considerable talents of Uwais. Instead of showcasing the Indonesian actor’s exceptional work from the Raid movies with well-choreographed stunts and wide shots, Berg drowns the actor in incomprehensible quick cuts where you have no idea what’s going on. Uwais isn’t 60-year-old Liam Neeson trying to scale a fence! There’s even a scene in a diner shot in darkness and smoke. Great way to film a fight sequence. Rousey doesn’t even get to fight. Why else is she in the movie?
How about the plot? Totally nonsensical. There’s a subplot involving Russians (It’s 2018 after all) and the film flashes ahead several times where Wahlberg is spouting off to some government lackey about the mission and the cost of war. I couldn’t even understand half of what he was saying because he was talking so fast.
And if Wahlberg’s character is such a genius, why are the villains always a step ahead of him and his team? The lesson here is: never let Wahlberg play a smart guy. See: The Happening, The Gambler and two Transformers movies. He’s a good actor, but he doesn’t have considerable range. Just give him a gun and let him shoot things.
Despite being a brisk 95 minutes, Mile 22 feels like a sludge to get through. And they have the audacity to tease a sequel at the end. Maybe some more thought should have been put into this one before thinking about a franchise.