Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Movie Review: Mile 22

Mile 22 ** / *****
Directed by: Peter Berg.
Written by: Lea Carpenter and Graham Roland.
Starring: Mark Wahlberg (James Silva), Lauren Cohan (Alice), John Malkovich (Bishop), Ronda Rousey (Sam Snow), Iko Uwais (Li Noor), Carlo Alban (William Douglas III), Natasha Goubskaya (Vera), Chae-rin Lee (Queen), Sam Medina (Axel), Keith Arthur Bolden (King), Jenique Hendrix (Knight), Billy Smith (Rook), Myke Holmes (Pawn), Emily Skeggs (M.I.T.), Terry Kinney Johnny Porter), Brandon Scales (Jacob Stone), Poorna Jagannathan (Dorothy Brady), Peter Berg (Lucas).
Mile 22 is the fourth collaboration between Mark Wahlberg and director Peter Berg – all of them manly action movies, in which Wahlberg is the manliest man of the all the manly men in the movie. The other three – Lone Survivor, Deepwater Horizon and Patriots Day – were all based on true stories, and I thought they got progressively better (I didn’t like Lone Survivor, and its fetishization of war very much, thought Deepwater Horizon was okay, and actually liked Patriots Day quite a bit – even if it’s weird that the film concentrated so much on Wahlberg’s character). Mile 22 isn’t based on a true story, and perhaps that’s why its easily the weakest of the films they have made together – no matter how exploitive those other films felt at times, there was always an underlying respect Berg and Wahlberg had for the people they were portraying. Here, they basically just let it rip from beginning to end – and have basically made an action film as written by right wing Reddit users, who drone on about Q Anon and the Deep State. If the movie were more fun – better made, better written – perhaps that wouldn’t matter so much. But it’s not.
In the film, Wahlberg plays James Silva, a man so deep inside the deep state that his CIA job is his cover for his real job, working for a super-secret government agency called Overwatch. When not even the CIA can get its hands dirty, Silva and his team all resign from their jobs to take on the most elite of all the elite missions, and are then rehired afterwards. We witness one such job at the beginning of the film – with Wahlberg watching from the forest with a sniper rifle, while his team infiltrates a suburban household, full of Russians up to know good. There is an offsite Overwatch team as well – they monitor the situation with drones, can read heat signatures, and the vitals of all their operatives – and can get involved if needed. It’s headed, like all super-secret government programs should be, by John Malkovich – who is billed in the credits as Bishop, although they basically call him Mother throughout.
Anyway, that job goes South – and all the Russians needed to be executed. Flash forward 16 months, and the team is now in some fictional Asian country – and are about to start another job. There is dirty bomb material out there, and a local cop, Li Noor (Iko Uwais) says he knows where it is – all he needs is to put on a plane to America, and he’ll give them what they need. In order to do that though, the team has to get Noor 22 miles from their embassy, to their plane – who for reasons unexplained, can only stay on the ground for 22 minutes. The locals don’t want him to go through – and you figure the Russians have something to do with it as well, as we constantly flash to them listening in.
Wahlberg’s role as Silva is what constitutes stretching now for Wahlberg – who was once giving great performances in films like Boogie Nights, I Heart Huckabees and The Departed – but who now only seems to want to do these types of violent action movies (since he says he regrets doing Boogie Nights, we clearly disagree on his career trajectory). There is much debate as to what precisely is wrong with Silva – manic depressive, bipolar, or just an asshole, he speaks a mile a minute, and treats everyone as if they’re idiots (my bet is asshole). He’s fine, I guess, although my favorite performance in the movie is by Lauren Cohan as Alice – his closest friend on the team – and the only sympathetic character in the movie – and also swears more than anyone else in the movie, and does so well at it, I hope David Mamet or Quentin Tarantino were paying attention.
The film’s plot though is basically an excuse to put together a big long action sequence at the end of the movie – okay, perhaps the last two thirds of the film, which is one action sequence stacked on top of another. Some of these are better than others. Berg is clearly inspired by Gareth Evans The Raid here, so much so that he stole that films star Uwais, and makes pretty good use of him. No, he doesn’t get the type of mind boggling action sequence Evans’ film gave him – but there is a nice one where he attacks two people trying to kill him as he’s handcuffed to a hospital bed. A long sequence inside an apartment building feels like a direct lift from The Raid – just not done as well. Berg, who no matter what problems his other films had, was usually quite good as directing action, has here decided to go with more rapid fire editing than usual – which makes quite a few of the action scenes border on the incoherent.
The films point-of-view is clearly right wing, and so what if it is? So were the other films in the Berg/Wahlberg canon (even Deepwater Horizon, about a natural disaster still didn’t seem to care at all about the environment). Even if I disagree with much of what the films argues, I wouldn’t mind so much if it argued it coherently. But like many internet conspiracies, everything in Mile 22 just seems like a jumble of incoherent rambling – and this time, we don’t even have good action sequences to fall back on. I’ve never been a huge fan of these Berg/Wahlberg’s opuses – but I’ve never out and out disliked one like I did this time around.

No comments:

Post a Comment