Director: Peter Berg
Writer: Lee Carpenter
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Iko Uwais, John Malkovich
CIA Operative and all-round asshole James Silva (Wahlberg) leads a small but lethal team of elite American intelligence officers on a highly dangerous mission to smuggle mysterious Indonesian police officer that has sensitive information (Uwais) out of Indonesia. Meanwhile, Silva’s commander (Malkovich) back at mission HQ wears a ridiculous wig.
There seems to be two Marky Mark Wahlbergs at the moment; friendly rom-com Mark Walhberg (Daddy’s Home 1 & 2, Instant Family) and angry, fast-talking action-man Mark Walhberg (Transformers, Pain & Gain and all of his collaborations with director Peter Berg). Well, in his fourth collaboration with Berg his performance is an even more extreme version of his usual action performances; his character of James Silva is beyond angry and talks even faster than usual, and is one of the reasons why, despite an initially interesting (if very generic) premise, Mile 22 is such an abysmal and forgettable mess of a film.
During the opening credit sequence we are given a montage of clips that tell us that when he was a kid, Silva was always different from the others; he has a higher pain threshold and is able to think much quicker than the average, but at the cost of being prone to extreme aggression. This makes him a kind of angry superhero, but if it is some attempt at making his character interesting or likeable then it fails miserably. As all involved regard the audience as stupid, then Silva is given a prop to remind us idiots of our protagonist’s traits by having him wear an elastic band on his wrist which he flicks rather aggressively when he gets a bit cross. There is nothing engaging or interesting about the protagonist, and this is not helped by Walhberg’s extreme overacting. His character is at first very annoying, but just eventually becomes rather monotonous and boring.
So, we have an action film with a really unlikable protagonist, not a good start! Well, at least he and his team are (supposedly) doing the right thing, so with a decent plot and action sequences there is still enough room to let Walhberg get on with his elastic band flicking and 1000mph shouting in the background, while the rest of the film gets on with being a decent genre piece. Alas, that is not the case, as Mile 22 is a complete visual and narrative mess of a film, with the only minor plus points being some decently choreographed fight sequences and a decent performance from The Raid’s Iko Uwais. However, after the credits start rolling the only thing that it will be remembered for (apart from being a waste of some decent talent) is John Malkovich’s outrageous toupee.
Peter Berg’s approach to action is often rapid and confusing editing, dialogue and camerawork, which can be fine if it is a film with an interesting story that contains a genuine sense of danger and interesting characters. This is very much a formula that Paul Greengrass consistently delivers very well, but yet in Mile 22 there is never any sense of character engage or genuine danger – the lack of the latter is certainly not helped by the casting of Walhberg (and his character’s particular traits) and the decision to go for a framed narrative involving his character talking retrospectively about an ‘incident’.
Berg and screenwriter Lee Carpenter manage to make a very simply story feel really confusing, and this is mainly due to their chaotic approach to every aspect of the film. It is almost impressive how they manage to make a very loud and chaotic 95-minute film feel extremely dull and a really arduous viewing experience.
Walhberg is of course the star (and it is probably in his contract that every other line of non-sensical dialogue is said by him) and so the other characters were never really going to ever stand much of a chance to ever get developed. We of course get the usual sacrificial and dramatic deaths from some of his crew (but they lack any real emotional involvement), and the only member of his team with a potentially interesting back story is Lauren Cohan’s Alice, but this is underdeveloped. Meanwhile John Malkovich just turns up to collect his cheque, and his aforementioned (and quite striking) wig does actually act everyone else off the screen. The only good thing about Mile 22 is Iko Uwais; when he does get a chance to show us his extreme skills that we all saw in The Raid he does deliver some great moments and individual fight sequences. His character is also potentially quite interesting, showing how well he has developed as an actor, and his understated performance allows him through mere expression and body language to show us that there is depth to his character. He is however underused so as not to upstage the elastic band flicking Walhberg – that was probably contractual!
As the narrative stumbles chaotically from one loud and pointless action sequence to another (even though they are all rather similar) Mile 22 just gets increasingly boring and tedious, and the inevitable (and borderline racist) ‘plot-twist’ (that all would see coming if they actually could care) that tries to leave things open for a sequel just feels like final clarification that the audience has just wasted 95 minutes of their lives.
Chaos never felt so painfully boring: despite a couple of good performances from Iko Uwais and John Malkovich’s wig, thanks to a hideously unlikable protagonist and poor direction and editing, Mile 22 completely misfires