Director: Peter Berg
Screenplay: Lea Carpenter
Mark Walberg as James Silva
Lauren Cohan as Alice Kerr
Ronda Rousey as Sam Snow
John Malkovich as Bishop
Iko Uwais as Li Noor
You may have noticed, gentle readers, that the cast list is rather short. There are, of course, far more people involved in the movie, and some would recognize them, but this is going to be a brief review.
The plot of Mile 22 is adequate for the spy thriller/action movie genre. Mark Walberg is James Silva, a former military fast burner now the head of the operational element of a beyond top tippy top secret paramilitary team. Lauren Cohan–most will recall her from The Walking Dead–is a member of his team, as is Ronda Rousey. John Malkovich is the head of the unit who directs the computer wizards that provide real time information via armed Predator drones and other secret hardware for Silva’s missions.
The movie opens with the team assaulting a suburban home that conceals a Russian FSB spy ring bent on terror or something else bad. The team takes down the Russians expertly and quickly, but don’t bother to restrain them, which soon allows gunplay, killing one of the team–that’s going to happen to just about everybody–and setting the house on fire. Silva kills a young Russian who prophetically tells him he’s making a mistake. This is unsubtle foreshadowing that brings the wrath of the Russians down on the team.
Sixteen years later, the team is at the US Embassy in a Southeast Asian country with a made up name, when Li Noor, played by Indonesian martial arts star Iko Uwais, walks in with a computer drive which contains the locations of WMD materials the team is seeking. The trick is the drive will wipe the information if they don’t get Noor to the airport and fly him to sanctuary in America within about 30 minutes. To do this, they have to fight their way through about 22 miles of third world urban terrain. Mayhem ensues.
While there is an effective plot twist at the end of the movie, which leaves room for a sequel, there is very little dialogue of any importance. As is the case in so many contemporary movies, most of the actors, in most of the scenes, could have read their lines off a 3” X 5” card just before walking on set. Still, they do a reasonably good job. Wahlberg has the most lines, but he delivers them in a rapid-fire stream of bluster, speaking more quickly than stereotypical airheaded cinematic teenaged girls. Unfortunately, much of the limited and predictable dialogue was filmed in glorious Mumble Vision; it’s very difficult to understand.
Most of the team gets killed–they only get to deliver a line or two–and Ronda Rousey only lasts about a half hour.
The action sequences might be good. Gun handling–and there is a great deal of it–is more accurate than one finds in most movies, as are the guns, though as is common in too many movies, no one appears to carry any spare magazines, despite knowing they’re about to face innumerable hostiles bent on killing them. Cohan’s character empties her rifle and pistol, and throws both away rather than keeping them and trying to seize ammo from the bad guys. It could have been a watchable “beat ‘em up/shoot ‘em up” of its kind except for one major problem: it was filmed and edited in “Shaky, Unfocused Handheld Camera, Too Darkly Lit, Blurred Action” Vision.
I’ve often ranted about directors that think this kind of camera technique is edgy and sophisticated. Actually, it just makes it impossible to see what’s happening, and is almost always “yell at the screen” annoying. Combine that with about half of the movie consisting of extreme facial close ups of the characters, and the movie is mostly incomprehensible and frustrating.
Uwais appears to be a talented martial artist, and he might actually have screen presence, but in every scene where he takes on several thugs, the filming is so dark and blurry, it’s nearly impossible to tell who is whacking who. The movie flits from face to face, to Silva–from the chest up–shooting, to a bad guy getting hit and falling down, to a blur of a badly lit Uwais and bad guys grunting and knocking things over. Eventually, the bad guys are dead or unconscious, and Uwais becomes identifiable again, panting, bleeding and sweating, as the camera steadies for a few seconds. Often, such camera and editing technique covers for lazy action and fight choreography, but that doesn’t appear to be the case in this movie. It just seems the director and film editors thought making it all but impossible for viewers to actually see the action to better understand what was going on was cool. It’s not.
Apart from the unintelligible sound, sometimes too-dark lighting and bizarre camera work and editing, the other production values are professionally done. Sets, props and costumes are third world gritty.
The last line in the movie, delivered by Silva, is one of the more blatant sequel set ups I’ve seen in years. I doubt there will be a sequel. This really is a mostly unwatchable movie. Sequels mostly work when there are interesting characters audiences want to see again, but in Mile 22, save Silva, they’ve all been killed off. But if there is, one can surely wait for the DVD. Actually, one might wait for the WalMart $5.00 bargain bin. The same is true of Mile 22. It’s not worth watching in the theater. Perhaps at home, one might alter the timbre of the soundtrack sufficiently to make it consistently intelligible, but I won’t know. I’m not buying the DVD version. There were only three people in the theater with me on opening night, though to be fair, it was the late, late showing.
For a watchable action movie starring Wahlberg, Shooter (2007), based on Stephen Hunter’s Point Of Impact, is worth your time. The current TV series of the same name is based on both.
I don’t find many theatrical releases I wouldn’t buy on DVD. This is primarily because I’m relatively careful about the movies I see in the theater. Mile 22 is one on which I wasted money and time, and I’m more than usually upset I won’t get that time back.