Updated: Jul 23, 2020
Director/Producer – Peter Berg
Writer – Lea Carpenter
Cast - Mark Wahlberg, John Malkovich, Lauren Cohan, Iko Uwais, and Ronda Rousey
Plot – An elite CIA task force composed of paramilitary officers and marksmen is forced to escort a high value target (Uwais) across 22 miles to an extraction point while being hunted by the Russian government.
Mile 22 marks the fourth collaboration between Wahlberg (who shares a producer credit) and director Peter Berg, following their previous outings Lone Survivor, Deepwater Horizon and Patriots Day however this is the first which is not based on a real-life event. And so this espionage action thriller feels less grounded in reality than their previous work, with an emphasis on fast-paced gun battles, Bourne-like vehicle chases and martial arts combat straight out of The Raid films. It delivers on tempo, thrills and tension which have become a staple of this Berg/Wahlberg partnership however its execution is certainly not flawless.
We are introduced to the strike team codenamed Overwatch led by James Silva (Wahlberg) carrying out a raid on an American suburban household. Its Russian occupants are suspected of storing caesium, a toxic substance which can be deadly when weaponised. What follows is a tense, manically-paced spectacle of head shots, shaky-cam corridor fights and gun violence (this is a film which is quick to earn its 18-rating). This team are professionals and killing is merely a part of the job.
As for Silva, he seems to suffer from an unnamed clinical condition (suspected as bipolar by some in his team, others offer schizophrenia). All that can be deduced is that he likes to shout. A lot. Wahlberg isn't new to playing characters which aren’t afraid to hold back in the insult department (The Departed being a standout) however here the writing is not as sharp and he mostly comes off as a bully. It’s a difficult character to support; however the introduction of Li Noor (Uwais) leads to one of the most unsubtle of exchanges (“Say hi to your mother for me.”)
The Indonesian police officer needing protection in exchange for valuable information is the main plotline. Thankfully, Uwais is excellent here. Those familiar with the aforementioned The Raid films will instantly appreciate his bone-snapping, wince-inducing perfectly choreographed physical violence and he doesn’t disappoint. Some jaw-dropping creativity with broken car window glass will no doubt prompt a reaction, among many other great moments.
But this then leads to the main problem with Berg’s film. It is striving to do a number of different things but all have been done better elsewhere. The moments with Uwais and the physical violence were better handled by Gareth Evans and his wide-shot capturing style, whereas Berg’s editing style feels very ‘Hollywood’; too fast and manipulated. Likewise, the militaristic intrigue and gun fights are by no means a letdown but do feel derivative of franchises like the Bourne films.
It’s also a movie which is so fast-paced that it doesn’t give much time to breathe. Again, the quick-cutting nature of Berg’s editing style here feels slightly messy. On top of that, characters are barely fleshed out (a sub plot with Lauren Cohen’s character and her fractured relationship with her ex seems to go nowhere) and Ronda Rowsey’s character is barely given a second dimension beyond ‘tough swat lady’.
Some third act revelations will no doubt divide audiences and the film’s short run time will also be appreciated by some or frustrating for others (it does feel incredibly abrupt). There are some clear signs that a sequel is in the works - a trilogy according to Berg - which does feel cynical in this age when a release doesn’t feel wrapped up for commercial reasons.
Ultimately, Mile 22 is a decent action thriller with some frenetic violence and a stand-out physical performance from Iko Uwais however Berg’s movie fails to deliver a coherent plot and its lack of depth and flawed characterisation hold it back from excelling over its influences. You will more than likely want to watch The Raid when you get home.