Collaborations between Director Peter Berg and actor Mark Wahlberg have been OK. But this latest one… Oof.
In their new team-up, Mark Wahlberg plays James Silva, the head of a special operations unit under the leadership of the CIA. The story picks up with the team at United States embassy in a country that is never specified throughout this feature. The audience soon learns that the unit is there because there is an informant named Li Noor who has a computer drive with the location of nuclear weapon materials.
That informant, played by Iko Uwais, wants something in return, though: asylum in the United States. As a result, the team take the informant on a 22 mile trip to an airfield to get him out of the country and reveal where the materials may be. However, Noor is a target in the country, making the journey dangerous for the CIA team.
“Mile 22” was only about an hour and a half, but it felt longer watching from start to finish. The issue isn’t that it features a fairly straightforward story about an escort mission. One or more characters have to be protected and the rest of the team have to defend them at all costs. Other pictures, such as “Mad Max: Fury Road,” have done so very well.
However, with “Mile 22,” the problem is that Berg as well as writers Lea Carpenter and Graham Roland force in some padding around the story in a very clumsy way. The entire movie uses a framing device where Wahlberg’s character is in a briefing, recapping the events of the mission. These moments are cut in between multiple sequences throughout the film.
Not only does this interrupt the overall flow of the picture, but these moments where Silva is getting briefed are also used to deliver some jingoistic mumbling that has very little nuance or gravity. It adds so little to the overall picture.
Framing devices like this where the movie breaks away to one of the characters reflecting on what’s going on in the moment can work. For example, this occurred in the 2015 picture “Black Mass.” It worked there because those sequences were used to give more context and depth to what was happening. In “Mile 22,” these cutaways to Silva’s briefing offer nothing other than Wahlberg saying drivel with no substance.
On top of this, the film ends without explaining what happened with a massively important story point and has the audacity to set itself up for a sequel.
The worst part of this film, though, is Wahlberg as Silva. During the movie’s opening credits, Silva is introduced as a person who was a genius from a very young age, but at the same time was socially awkward and his mind was always racing. He then became one of the military’s best soldiers and went on to be a top level CIA agent.
So, being a special agent with a background in the military and a person with little social skills must mean that Wahlberg gives a more reserved performance than usual, right? Nope. Wahlberg pretty much gives a standard performance where he yells a lot and gets in people’s faces all the time. The filmmakers give him a quirk of snapping a rubber band whenever his mind is working too fast, but that’s the only thing really different here.
This is a character who is supposed to be a genius and is dealing with very heavy subjects, yet Wahlberg portrays the role as if he’s playing a drunken bar-goer who wants to argue about a sports team.
There are other pictures that have done this concept so much better. One example is “The Imitation Game.” The movie is based on the true story of Alan Turing who was a quiet, reserved person who had difficulty connecting with people despite being quite intelligent. Benedict Cumberbatch gave a very subtle, strong performance there.
How about fictional? Let’s look at Ryan Gosling in the 2011 feature “Drive.” Again, this film’s lead character was intelligent, yet he didn’t connect well with others. Gosling gave a performance where an audience had to read between the lines.
But forget all that. When Wahlberg isn’t screaming or swearing, he’s acting like a smartass and trying to make one-liners. Not only does this make it like any other Wahlberg character, but it really detracts from the serious tone the film is going for.
Wahlberg’s style can work with a different type of character, the police sergeant in “The Departed” being a prime example. But his performance and the way this character was crafted just doesn’t work here.
The supporting characters don’t add much, either. Lauren Cohan plays Alice, who’s sort of the de facto second in command of the unit. Her whole arc is that she’s upset that she can’t see her child because she’s always working overseas. The problem is that the film never explains why she keeps doing this work. There’s never a point where the character has a line of dialogue saying that she loves the work she does or finds it incredibly valuable. So, when she complains about not seeing her family, it’s difficult to have too much sympathy.
The other lead character, Li Noor, is alright here. He gives a fine performance, portraying a cold, calculating informant whose next move isn’t totally known.
The rest of the cast is hit or miss. John Malkovich does bring some screen presence and is fine here. Ronda Rousey, who plays another one of the team members, though, doesn’t offer anything more than the tough soldier act. Then again, she’s not really given anything to do by the writers. There’s a point where the film’s characters are talking about the intelligence officials who are using computers and Rousey’s character just quips “fucking nerds.” Is that supposed to be comical? Is she joking? Is she serious? It’s just blank.
Don’t look for the action to save this flick, either. Much of it, while gritty and realistic, is poorly shot and the editing is rather choppy, with so many cuts that it becomes difficult to see what’s happening. Plus, other than some nice choreography from Uwais, the film just features fairly standard shootouts without much style.
“Mile 22” has nothing to offer but mostly generic action and some faux-political jargon. The characters are subpar, the acting is below average and a simple story is layered with a poorly executed framing device. 1 out of 5.