MILE 22 (2018, R, 94 minutes, STX PRODUCTIONS/CLOSEST TO THE HOLE ENTERTAINMENT)
Directors sometimes find actors they prefer to work with, and stick with them through thick and thin, through good movie and bad.
Peter Berg is no exception; he and Mark Wahlberg have worked together on four films, and have another in pre-production. Those movies (LONE SURVIVOR, DEEPWATER HORIZON, PATRIOT’S DAY, MILE 22, and the upcoming WONDERLAND) combined did not quite make enough money to justify this eclectic pairing. It isn’t that either of them are bad at what they do; Berg is also responsible for COLLATERAL, the darkly hysterical VERY BAD THINGS, and the critically well-received BATTLESHIP. Wahlberg—hell, Marky Mark was in the phenomenal BOOGIE NIGHTS, THE DEPARTED, and TED. So, them jumping from project to project together comes as a surprise, considering that they aren’t as commercially successful together as they are apart.
Not that this film belongs solely to either of them; Berg has a style unlike many filmmakers, in that you don’t always realize you are watching a Peter Berg movie. And Wahlberg…while he may be the brunt of jokes on SNL, he is a rather capable actor. In MILE 22, he captures the frenetic energy of a government agent with obvious mental health issues. His condition is never labeled, but it doesn’t need to be. The viewer grows accustomed to his tics and idiosyncrasies quickly enough. But the other actors in the film may be what drive you to enjoy it.
Rhonda Rousey and “The Walking Dead’s” Laura Cohan play two badass agents on James Silva’s (Wahlberg) team, who are tasked with transporting a foreign agent twenty-two miles (bet you didn’t see that one coming…) to a plane to get him safely to the U.S. It seems he has the location of some radioactive material that could be used to blow up a whole bunch of innocent civilians, and he has provided the CIA with a disc detailing the location that is on a self-destruct countdown. As if that timetable weren’t enough, the plane does not plan on sitting on foreign soil any longer than it must, and the route to safety is lined with assassins. And targets, really. “The Package” is played by Indonesian martial arts expert and actor Iko Uwais (THE RAID). His acting is fine, but he’s really here to put on a stunt show—and he does, with a feline-like ferocity that, while fluid at times, is dramatically effective in its brutality.
The pacing of the film makes for a fast hour-and-a-half; Berg and screenwriter Lea Carpenter waste no time with fluff. Even the secondary storylines, like for Cohan’s Alice Kerr, a divorced mom forced to communicate with her daughter and her ex through an app which doesn’t allow cursing, is a quick, effective breeze. You get just enough to like certain characters before they get thrown into the mix. This is streamlined storytelling at its finest.
The only problem is that it isn’t necessarily something you have to rush out and see. At times, the action onscreen is difficult to follow, thanks to cinematographer (and Berg favorite) Jacques Jouffret, who likes to pull you in close to witness the effect of bullets and bombs and hand-to-hand combat. It occasionally makes the editing during those scenes feel clunky, as it isn’t an effect that Berg uses consistently.
For some reason, there is a sequel in the works. Hopefully Berg and Wahlberg manage to create something a bit more solid and meaningful next time. And no, a film doesn’t always have to have a message on morality or make a social statement—what it should do, at least, is make a mark on its own genre. And this one doesn’t quite get there.
-- T.S. Kummelman