(USA, 95 min.)
Dir. Peter Berg; Writ. Lea Carpenter, Graham Roland (story)
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Lauren Cohan, John Malkovich, Iwo Uwais, Rhonda Rousey, Peter Berg
Mile 22 opens with a bang and doesn’t let up. Mark Wahlberg and company deliver high octane, heavy calibre entertainment playing a group of covert operatives on a dangerous mission to transport and protect a key witness. Mile 22 is a slick, swift, and energetic thrill ride. It is also relentlessly, savagely, and exhaustingly violent. The flick’s going to please its target audience, but I just don’t have the stomach for this kind of movie anymore.
Add to Wahlberg’s performance the strong supporting presence of The Raid’s Iwo Uwais as Li Noor, a witness whom Silva’s team must protect when he comes forward with information that could cripple governments, and there’s lots of great action that frays the nerves. The energy of Mile 22 is particularly good when it lets Uwais take the stage with his snazzy martial arts ballet that doesn’t require relentless gunplay to entertain the audience. The rapid-fire editing is as disorienting as it is kinetic to leaving audiences reeling from the punches and every rapid-fire cuss out of Silva’s motor-mouthed tirades. Mile 22 positions itself as a new kind of combat movie, a title it might rightly deserve, but one wishes it took the opportunity to say that Hollywood doesn’t need an assaultive stream of bullets for action movies to pack punches.
The latest film from Peter Berg (Deepwater Horizon, Lone Survivor), Mile 22 certainly knows the volatility of its material. Berg and debut screenwriter Lea Carpenter don’t shy aware from the carnage that ensues when Silva leads his team on an all-out bloodbath. The opening sequence sees Silva and his black ops team known as Ground Branch, staffed remotely by an agent known by the code name “Mother” (played by a toupéed John Malkovich), infiltrate a suburban home loaded with Russian baddies holding an arsenal of top calibre weapons and encrypted secrets. The operation sees the members of Ground Branch, including Alice (Lauren Cohan) and Sam (Rhonda Rousey), take brutal blows as they trade fire with the baddies. They bleed, they hurt, and some of them die.
Mile 22 constantly reminds audiences that there’s a pulse and a heartbeat underneath the armour that Silva, Alice, and Sam wear. Some snazzy gizmos provide Mother and his coms team with real time updates of the vital signs of Ground Branch members. Every hit sends their screens a-flicker, kind of like what happens in Mortal Kombat or GoldenEye Nintendo games, as the monitors reflect fluctuations in blood pressure, heart rate, and what-have-you. The film keeps audiences consistently aware of the consequences of violence. Not only the physical consequences, but also the emotional ones, as Carpenter’s script fleshes out some of the characters, like Alice, to show the family she leaves behind at home. There’s another fine example of the moral weight of violence that reveals itself at the end and shows how violence is not an endgame: it simply breeds more of the same.
That’s all good and noble of the Mile 22 team to check their bases while making an explicitly violently film. Coming out (unfortunately) in a very violent summer for Toronto when kids are being shot in playgrounds and cafés, the act of filmmakers recognizing and addressing the brutality violence is ultimately as effective as politicians who offer #ThoughtsAndPrayers without translating that goodwill into tighter gun control. The film will inevitably please people who want to see it, but Berg and 'berg need to be more responsible with their next project.
Mile 22 opens in theatres August 17.