Survival stories are captivating. There’s something about someone battling the elements and defying the odds to come away from a harrowing experience alive. There’s also a simplicity to survival stories. All you need is a lone character and a catastrophic event and you’ve laid the foundation for a dramatic tale. That’s the idea behind Mine, the survival story by the writing-directing duo of Fabio Guaglione and Fabio Resinaro. With the foundation for an intense tale of survival, Mine becomes a frustrating movie to behold as it cedes its tension to some wildly absurd moments that evaporate the film’s suspense and leave you rolling your eyes, indifferent to the well-being of the film’s main character.
Mike (Armie Hammer) is a sniper in the United States Marine Corps. With his spotter Tommy (Tom Cullen), Mike is tasked with taking out a target in the midst of the desert. Through his scope Mike is able to see that this target is out in the open for a wedding, and soldier refuses to shoot someone in the middle of ceremony and aborts the mission. Mike and Tom then traverse the desert to rendezvous with their extraction team. It’s an arduous journey and they don’t have much water, and Tommy still has a bit of anger towards his partner for his refusal to carry out their mission. In the sand covered dunes, however, the two inadvertently stumble into a minefield. The blast wounds Tommy, his feet completely blown off. Rushing to help his fellow soldier, Mike himself steps on a mine and is unable to movie without imperiling his own life. Tommy then takes his own life, leaving Mike stranded on a mine with little supplies in the harsh elements of the desert. He must then figure out a way to keep pressure on the mine while reaching the radio to call for help, though help may not come for some time.
Armie Hammer gives a strong performance as practically the lone character of Mine. More and more it seems as if Hammer is coming into his own as a leading man. In the film, Hammer is able to capture the desperation of his character with few words and it’s captivating to behold as Hammer’s Mike is forced to improvise ways to survive. For the first half of Mine it seems like the film is going to be in the tradition of The Shallows or Gravity, where a character is stranded in a solitary location and must battle various factors in order to survive. For Mike, it’s not just the weather or the mine he’s standing on, but bloodthirsty coyotes roaming the desert for food in the night.
However, Hammer’s strong performance is undermined by the script by Guaglione and Resinaro. Once the film establishes its tension, the writing-directing duo take a step back and the film struggle to find its footing. The first sign that things are going awry for the film are the flimsy reasons that military gives for being unable to come to Mike’s rescue. It only gets worse from there as the appearance of the eccentric local Berber (Clint Dyer) leads to some unfortunate moments where the local man imparts inspirational words and a bit of water to the stranded soldier. The language barrier between the two characters frustrates Mike and these scenes slow the film to a crawl.
Where Mine flies off the rails is at towards the ending. The elements and stress taking its toll on Mike, he begins to have a series of dreams and hallucinations in the desert. Not only does his deceased partner begin to give him motivational speeches, but he also starts to examine his life in flashbacks that explore his contentious relationship with his father (Geoff Bell), the death of his mother (Juliet Aubrey), and his relationship with his fiancé Jenny (Annabelle Wallis). None of these moments add much depth to Mike and Guaglione and Resinaro completely abandon the simplicity of the film’s concept to insert these trite dreams and flashbacks. It takes a turn for the wildly absurd when Mike is staring down a mirage of his father in the desert.
When the film is concerned with the simplicity of its concept, Mine works incredibly well with moments of tension amplified by the quest for survival when surrounded by the harshest elements. Fabio Guaglione and Fabio Resinaro completely lose sight of what works as Mine meanders about with unnecessary dreams and supporting characters that bloat the film to the point where it overstays its welcome. It’s so close to being a really good movie that it really hurts when Mine blows up in your face.
Despite a strong performance by Armie Hammer and moments of strong tension, Mine blows up with absurd supporting characters and trite dream sequences in what is almost a good movie.