Saturday 17 October 2020

Movie Review: Mile 22 (2018)

An action thriller, Mile 22 is a non-stop cacophony of slick urban battle scenes, admittedly impressive sound and fury subjugating substance.

James Silva (Mark Wahlberg) is an operative in the secretive Overwatch group led by James Bishop (John Malkovich), sanctioned by the US government to execute covert counter-espionage missions with deadly force. With the help of agents Alice (Lauren Cohan), Sam (former professional wrestler Ronda Rousey) and Douglas (Carlo Alban), the team takes down a Russian FSB safehouse in the United States, killing all the occupants including an 18 year old.

16 months later, Silva and his team are in Indocarr (modeled on Indonesia) seeking missing shipments of the chemical element cesium, which can be used to create radioactive bombs. Local informant Li Noor (Iko Uwais) provides a locked disk with crucial information, but will only reveal the password in return for asylum in the US. Silva is tasked with driving Noor the 22 miles from the embassy to an airfield, a mission complicated by Indocarr's intelligence chief Axel (Sam Medina) and his army of goons, eager to prevent Noor's defection. Meanwhile, a Russian surveillance team takes to the skies to monitor - and perhaps interfere - in the unfolding events.

It's impossible not to admire Mile 22. Director Peter Berg teams up with star Mark Wahlberg for the fourth time, and in just 94 minutes they deliver a sparkling non-stop action movie built on the foundations of a complex story crackling with energy. Based on an original script from Lea Carpenter, this is unpretentious combat entertainment with a maximum body count, a minimum of CGI, plenty of gore, bullets and martial arts sharing screen time, augmented by a veneer of whizz-bang technology and delivered with commendable proficiency.

But the weaknesses are also apparent, mostly in the form of a structure that settles into a series of video-game level set-pieces, and a dizzying editing job often intercutting manic action at multiple locations into barely cohesive snippets. And while the triumphant final twist is well-earned, it does leave behind plenty of retrospective logic holes, some of which were undoubtedly intended to be filled by sequels.

The action is juiced by providing Wahlberg with a slightly different screen persona to chew on. Instead of his typical heroic guy-next-door, here James Silva has a whirring mind operating too quickly for his mouth, and he snaps a rubberband on his wrist to just marginally stay on the sane side of the line. He berates friends and foes alike for not thinking and acting as quickly as he does, but they tolerate him due to his in-field superiority.

The supporting performances and character definitions are as would be expected, superficial and barely existent respectively. Lauren Cohan suffers the most from an inept attempt to introduce a turbulent long-distance family life.

With a singular focus on expending the most ammunition in the least amount of time, Mile 22 covers the distance.

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