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Review: ‘Mile 22’ is an Ambitious Actioner Undone by Poor Execution

August 17, 2018Ferdosa Abdi

On paper, director Peter Berg's latest is a thrilling and ambitious project. However, poor execution torpedoes what would otherwise be an amazing actioner that is clearly attempting to stand out among other entries in the covert ops genre.

Mile 22 follows James Silva (Mark Wahlberg) and his elite CIA paramilitary squad (Lauren Cohan, Ronda Rousey and Carlo Alban) that operates in near-complete secrecy to do whatever it takes to ensure that the government's best interests are secure. On this particular mission, Silva and his squad are tasked with transporting Li Noor (Iko Uwais), an intelligence asset who possesses valuable and dangerous information, but on the 22-mile route from the US Embassy to a secured airstrip, they're met with hostilities from both known and unknown opponents.

The story is good, but it could have done without the endless stream of vulgarity. Part of what makes Lea Carpenter and Graham Roland's script so compelling is the central twist, and while there was apparent effort spent crafting a story that plays with basic action conventions, suspense and dramatic irony, Berg's attempts to be edgy and radical with his filmmaking undercuts what the script attempts accomplish. Like, many action movies, there is an an attempt to balance thrills with character development and complex plotting. However, Mile 22 borrows elements like shaky cam and quick-cutting from films like the Bourne franchise, but does not do it well.

The most notable casualty of Berg's manic filmmaking is Uwais. Storywise, his character of Li Noor is perfectly fine; Uwais puts in a great performance and it is well-written. However, it is the action that falls short. The fight scenes are staged well, with the audience given a good understanding of the space and where each fighter is within that space, and the stunt crew and Uwais put on a performance that could rival some of the greatest fight scenes the trained martial artist has been apart off in past projects. The problem is that we don't see it, as the entire movie is edited within an inch of its life, making for a disorienting ride.

Aside from the lackluster execution, the film is also saddled with a cringe-worthy performance from Wahlberg, who is essentially playing the same role he has played for the past decade, but on fast-forward and cranked up to 11. We learn via a montage that Silva is highly intelligent because of an unspecified mental disorder. However, the movie treats Silva's clearly obsessive-compulsive behavior and mental health as a joke. Some might recall Ben Affleck's role in The Accountant, and Silva is a similar case. But instead of being quiet and astute, Silva is loud, brash, obnoxious and totally off-kilter. He is extremely dangerous, unpredictable and intelligent, but for whatever reason, he is unable to conduct himself in this mission in a way that showcases these skills and talents.

Perhaps with another creative team behind it, Mile 22 could have been better. But as it stands, it is difficult to recommend a film that amounts to Wahlberg grandstanding for its entirety, while also inexplicably not doing justice to Uwais' brilliant fighting skills. If you can stomach the vulgar, rapid-fire dialogue and incoherent direction, Mile 22 will probably hold your attention. However, a better bet would be to rent The Raid or watch Mission: Impossible - Fallout instead.

Mile 22 releases August 17th, 2018 from VVS Films. The film has an MPAA rating of R for strong violence and language throughout. Its runtime is 1 hr. 35 min.

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