Even at 90 minutes, this film moved way too fast!
One actor/director relationship that I have been noticing for a while now is the one between Mark Wahlberg and Peter Berg. They first collaborated in 2013 with Lone Survivor, and then again in 2016 with two more films, Deepwater Horizon and Patriots Day. Personally, I consider all three of these films to be some of the best I have seen in the last decade, because they were well-written and directed, and featured some great action and suspense. Now, Wahlberg and Berg have collaborated once again on Mile 22, which, unlike their previous collaborations, is not based on a true story (that I know of). Have they scored another hit?
In the film, Wahlberg plays Daniel Silva, a paramilitary agent working for the CIA. In the midst of an ongoing search for a biological weapon, the United States embassy in Southeast Asia is breached by Li-Noor, an informant who is in possession of a disk full of information regarding the weapon’s location. He will not give the code to unlock the disk until he is given asylum in the United States. Now Wahlberg and his team must transport him 22 miles to the border, where a plane will take him to the United States, while trying to avoid an onslaught of mercenaries.
How long did it take for me to describe the plot? About a few sentences, maybe one whole minute of reading? By contrast, the movie takes at least 30 minutes to lay out the same plot, and even by 30 minutes in, the storyline does not feel completely established to the point where anything makes sense.
As a Peter Berg fan, I unfortunately have to report that I was rather disappointed with the film. One of the tropes with Berg’s films is fast-paced editing, which was used effectively in Lone Survivor and Deepwater Horizon to establish intensity in the action scenes. But here, for some reason, this fast-paced editing is used in dialogue scenes that do not require it, and as a result, the story becomes difficult to understand. There is also a scene where Ronda Rousey’s character is approaching Lauren Cohan’s in a hallway, and one of the cuts did not even last a second long before it cuts back to the original angle. This editing was so distracting, that I don’t even remember their conversation.
Acting-wise, the cast is fine for what they are working with, but the rushed feeling of the film makes viewers beg for more information regarding their characters. For example, Ronda Rousey is in and out of the film too quick without establishing any character. She doesn’t even get a martial arts sequence, something that the Fast and Furious series managed to accomplish. Mark Wahlberg is as good as you would expect him to be, and yes, he does once again have a scene in which his character rapid-fires his monologue. The only other standout in the film is Iko Uwais as Li Noor, who, in his scenes, is vigorous, yet in-control.
The only thing of value in this movie is some intense action scenes– something that Berg knows how to handle well. The physical violence in this film is brutal, unforgiving, and downright bloody. Berg also has a tendency to capture an explosion from unique angles. One such scene features a car bomb explosion, where the countdown is presented through handheld close-ups. At the last second, the scene cuts to an aerial-view drone shot of the city, where you see the explosion from a distance. One of Berg’s strengths as a director is his sense of suspense, because his films can catch you off-guard as to when an explosion will occur. I just wish his sense of timing were better applied to the film as a whole.
It should be worth noting that there are already plans for a sequel and a companion television series, as if they think that this film is the next Sicario. I had hoped, at least, that the film would be close-ended, instead of ending with a cliffhanger. At a certain point, I thought to myself “They’d better not be ending on this shot.” And sure enough, the screen cuts to black, and a song blasts through, starting the end credits, making this ending was simply a non-ending.
Mile 22 is an unfortunate disappointment from a team I’ve grown to appreciate. The experience is the equivalent of someone talking at a fast speed about something difficult to understand and then exiting, leaving you confused and demanding answers. Given that he was the director of Battleship, maybe Berg should stay away from working on potential franchises and stick to telling compelling stories. As far as this franchise in concerned, it is off to a dismaying, convoluted, and messy start.