Starring Mark Wahlberg. Rated 14A
To ratchet up the tension in an action flick about a secret CIA mission, Mile 22 takes editing to maniacal new levels.
We’re not just talking timeworn digital countdown clocks and back-and-forth cuts between the real action and multiple security-cam angles. Like a cinematic Cuisinart-iste, director Peter Berg slices and dices everything into his action sequences—including information being live-fed back to headquarters from the special ops on a mission in a fictional big foreign city.
Cue tactical forces taking mouth swabs and dental impressions from Russian operatives, computers uploading that data, and monitors tracking the blood pressure of the American squad to make sure they’re… Nervous? Dead? Throw in far-overhead shots of cars going boom in city streets, bullets ripping through limbs, triggers being pulled, and tires screeching. Oh, and close-ups of Mark Wahlberg’s James Silva snapping the yellow elastic band around his wrist; that’s what he does to calm himself down.
The frenzy gets your heart pumping double-time, but it also distracts you from the fact some awfully ridiculous stuff is going down. Cop Li Noor (the amazing Iko Uwais, from The Raid) wants to help the Americans, but he’s hidden the whereabouts of a radioactive dust on a high-tech disc that will self-destruct in eight hours. That means Silva’s covert team has to get him to a safe flight that’s 22 miles away through hostile urban territory (the dense maze of beautifully ramshackle high-rises in what is actually Bogotá) before he’ll turn over the evidence. The journey even has a martial-arts-fighting, grenade-throwing, bullet-blasting battle through a massive modernist apartment complex reminiscent of The Raid.
Beyond the deranged, caffeinated editing, Berg and writers Lea Carpenter and Graham Roland try to dress up the action with colourful characters. But instead of being the dark presence everyone in the film talks about, Wahlberg’s raging, motor-mouthed Silva wears thin early.
Still, John Malkovich as the calm, Converse-wearing headquarters boss is a treat, and Uwais and Sam Medina as the villains here provide more smoulder and depth with a lot fewer words. Plus, Uwais pulls off what might be one of his coolest martial-arts scenes ever, kicking major ass while handcuffed to a hospital gurney, turning a bed’s guardrail into a lethal weapon.
So yes, absolutely, there is fun to be had, as well as many, many things to go boom, all amid an atmospheric urban jungle (although why it has to be a made-up city is one of many lingering questions the movie leaves).
Mile 22 wants to be a thinking person’s action film, and Wahlberg’s Chatty Cathy is always sputtering about diplomacy, warriors who “don’t wear uniforms anymore”, and secret ops who prevent “the end of tomorrow”. But Mile 22 really works best when you don’t think too hard. The images are flying at you so fast, you need your own yellow elastic band.