mile 22

- Review by Patrick Byrne

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Peter Berg’s Mile 22 does have a decent action movie premise. CIA operative James Silva (Mark Wahlberg) and his crack team must get rogue special forces officer Li Noor (Iko Uwais) out of his home country, in exchange for information on the whereabouts of doomsday chemicals; all while government goons who can’t shoot straight close in from all sides. The script is perfectly serviceable; the film is an embarrassing mess.

First of all; it’s rushed. Mile 22 feels like it’s been mauled in the editing room to get it down to ninety four minutes. The whole matter of the doomsday chemicals; where they are, what they are and what exactly they’ll do, ends up being far from obvious, shouted at the audience through a combination of non-stop close ups and a shaky-cam effect that infects the entire film. Also unclear is why on earth Noor’s government want him in captivity; especially as doomsday appears to loom as long as he stays at home.

The glaring problem here is Mark Wahlberg, in what might be his most massively wrong-headed decision since his rap career. According to a brief, and stupid, opening montage sequence, his character is highly intelligent. He isn’t. His periodic ranting has the ring of someone who thinks they sound smart, probably because the screenwriters thought it sounded smart. The attempt at whip-smart, fast-talking, quotable dialogue is simply embarrassing to watch, and in a good way. Of particular note is Marky Mark’s impassioned tirade about the victims of Hiroshima which had me in gales of laughter.  

What he ends up playing is a cross between freshman philosophy student quoting Lincoln and a gunman, who spends the entire film following orders, being outwitted, and shooting people with somewhat middling efficiency.  I will take that, however, over a series of secondary non-characters who are probably in the film for ten minutes in total, existing solely to be shot by baddies.

All in all, it’s mild entertainment, punctuated with awe at how wrong Wahlberg’s performance is. The only real suspense is in wondering how long it will be before Uwais has to take down another gang of villains in one of the luxuriously over the top martial arts sequences he’s become famous for. It hardly matters if he looks as though he couldn’t care less about this film or this character, the man is so charismatic and good at hitting people I just wanted to see more of him.  

In fact, the story would benefit from a full blown shift in perspective, have Uwais be the main character; his is after all the smartest, most skilful and sympathetic one there is. Have him as your charismatic lead and Wahlberg as the antagonist. Perhaps the most damning thing to be said for the film is that nothing about either performance or the role of either character would have to change in order for this switch-around to work; Uwais is competent, motivated and lethal, while our hero is just unlikeable. Let’s all not see it and hope they’ll cancel the sequel.