Director Peter Berg and actor Mark Wahlberg have had quite a fruitful working relationship together. Berg has directed Wahlberg in the rah-rah jingoistic hit Lone Survivor, the surprisingly excellent Deepwater Horizon, and the thrilling but problematic Patriots Day. Once again, Berg and Wahlberg have reunited this time for the action-thriller Mile 22, which is now available on Blu-ray from Universal Home Entertainment. The fourth collaboration between Berg and Wahlberg seems to be yielding diminishing returns, as Mile 22 is hampered by a ridiculously convoluted plot and some of Berg’s weakest action scenes as a director.
In the opening scenes of the film, James Silva (Wahlberg) leads his elite special-ops team in a raid of a safehouse for Russian intelligence officers in the United States. The operation doesn’t go smoothly and there are casualties on both sides. Months later, in the fictional land of Indocarr, police office Li Noor (Iko Uwais) turns himself in at the American embassy, seeking asylum in exchange for intelligence information which he holds on an encrypted disc that will self-destruct in four hours. Doubts as to Noor’s authenticity are assuaged once he’s attacked while in custody at the embassy. It’ll be up to Silva and his crack team of soldiers including Alice (Lauren Cohan), William (Carlo Alban), and Sam (Ronda Rousey) as the entire operation is overseen by James Bishop (John Malkovich), who goes by the codename Mother. Indocarr’s foreign minister Axel (Sam Medina) wants to stop the extraction of Noor and will use any means necessary.
You’d think that this premise would be rather simple. Good guys need to transport their asset of questionable moral standing through an array of heavily armed bad guys. You’ve got Wahlberg packing heat. You’ve got the blistering fast speed of Iko Uwais. This should be an action-packed slam dunk. However, Berg, who is typically a very good action director, goes overboard with shaky camera movement and a frantic editing that most of the action’s impact is lost in the edit. Iko Uwais is one of the most captivating action stars in recent memory (check out The Raid or The Night Comes For Us to see his kick-ass brilliance) and yet Mile 22 isn’t shot or cut in a way that utilizes his vast set of talents.
Because Mile 22 underwhelms on the action front it brings forth all of the flaws to the script credited to Lea Carpenter (from a story by Carpenter and Graham Roland). Instead of establishing a clear set of stakes, the plotting of the film tries to muddy the waters of what should be rather straightforward. The film has a number of twists and turns along the way, and the combination of too many twists and chaotically constructed action leaves the film with a number of confusing elements. Then, of course, there’s an absolutely bewildering subplot about Alice’s divorce and separation from her daughter. It may add a little bit of depth to the character but it comes at the expense of the film’s pacing, and only comes to fruition at the film’s underwhelming conclusion.
Up until this point, each of the collaborations between Peter Berg and Mark Wahlberg were based on true events. That sometimes led them into some problematic territory, such as some questionable elements to each Lone Survivor and Patriots Day. I truly thought that moving the style of Berg’s direction and Wahlberg’s cocky swagger into the realm of fiction would yield some rather brutally entertaining results and yet Mile 22 is their weakest collaboration to date. It’s a film that struggles because it stumbles on what should be its selling point – the action. All is not terrible, though, as the film does have little moments of entertaining absurdity, such as when Malkovich’s Bishops yells at Wahlberg’s Silva to “Stop monologuing, you bipolar fuck!”
Mile 22 had all the ingredients to be an absurdly entertaining B-movie and yet it falls short of those modest expectations because it takes itself way too seriously and fails to deliver the most basest thrills. Then you get to the conclusion of the ridiculous action and are presented a series of twists within twists within twists, none of which feel like this moment of great revelation but more of a shrug and sigh of “That’s it? Okay. What else is on?”
Despite featuring international action star Iko Uwais, Peter Berg’s Mile 22 is muddled mess with chaotic shooting and editing of the action and an absurdly convoluted plot.