(Original Publication Date: August 22nd, 2018) By: John M Jerva
REVIEW: MILE 22
STARRING: Mark Wahlberg, Lauren Cohan, Iko Uwais, Ronda Rousey, Sam Medina and John Malkovich
DIRECTED BY: Peter Berg
OFFICIAL SYNOPSIS: CIA operative James Silva leads a small but lethal paramilitary team on an urgent and dangerous mission. They must transport a foreign intelligence asset from an American embassy in Southeast Asia to an airfield for extraction — a distance of 22 miles. Silva and the soldiers soon find themselves in a race against time as the city’s military, police and street gangs close in to reclaim the asset.
THE REVIEW: With much hoopla to go around even before it was released, MILE 22 finally hit theaters last Friday as Mark Wahlberg and director Peter Berg team up for the fourth time after pairing up for the true life thrillers LONE SURVIVOR, PATRIOTS DAY and DEEPWATER HORIZON. While those films were based on real life events, Wahlberg and Berg finally deliver a fictional tale that is all about the action. I am writing this review a good five days after its release because I was unable to see it right away and in that time frame the film has been maligned by critics and audience members alike. I don’t read other people’s reviews normally but it was hard not to see the tag lines to many of these articles and even then I was still optimistic. My opinion may be in the minority but I don’t care because MILE 22 delivers ulta-viloent thrills in a film that is all about the action. The film runs at a brisk 95 minutes in length and while there isn’t a lot of set up, that works in the film’s favor because it is literally an action drenched sprint to the finish line from the word go. If you want brutal, hardcore action then this is the place to be.
I enjoy Mark Wahlberg’s movies a great deal and here he tries his hand at a different kind of character as he portrays elite CIA black ops soldier James Silva who leads a group of top tier professionals who work for Overwatch, a secret branch of the government that handles the dirty jobs no ones else wants. Silva is unusual in that he was a child prodigy whose mind thinks so fast that his mother gave him a rubber band to put around his wrist when he was a boy. If James ever got too much ahead of himself, he simply snaps the rubber band to calm himself and bring him back to the here and now. Silva is special and that is why he was recruited into the military and he has used his unusual persona to become one of the most dangerous men alive. Silva isn’t a nice guy, however, as he is all about getting the job done and if that means that he has to hurt someone else’s feelings then so be it. He has no issues yelling at or telling people how it is. You could say that he is an asshole, which one of his comrades calls him, but he gets results and at the end of the day that’s what matters.
Silva’s team consists of Alice Kerr (Cohan), Sam Snow (Rousey), and Bishop (Malkovich) who heads up Overwatch and this elite unit of black ops operatives. We get to know them and what they are capable of in the first scene of the film as they launch a strike on a seemingly normal house filled with Russian FSB agents. The hit goes sideways and Silva and his team are forced to eliminate everyone involved in a brutal display of no regrets. This scene also shows us that the ladies are just as bad ass as the men as Cohan and Rousey get to showcase their skills. The incident culminates in Silva executing an 18 year old male who whispers “You’re making a mistake” to which Silva replies, “I’ve made a lot of them.”
Flash forward 16 months and now Silva and the team are in a fictional city in Southeast Asia where they are on the hunt for cesium which has gone missing. Cesium is bad shit and can make Hiroshima and Nagasaki look like a day at the beach. Enter Li Noor (Uwais) a former cop who surrenders himself to them and says that he will give them the location to the cesium if he is granted asylum to the U.S. It turns out that Noor is Alice’s asset and due to a tight window to find the cesium, Silva reluctantly agrees to transport Noor 22 miles to an airfield where transport will be waiting for a limited time. Only when Noor is on the plane will he give the code that will open a disc that reveals the locations. The only problem is the disc will self destruct if the code is not put in on time. So the race is on to get Noor and the code to the airfield before it is too late.
This is where the action takes off at a fever pitch as Overwatch and Silva’s unit have been hacked by a group of Soviets who want to stop them at all costs. Could it be revenge for the hit 16 months earlier? Anyway, Silva and his team must fend off attacks from all directions led by the ruthless Axel (Medina) who has been tasked with bringing in Noor. As soon as the convoy leaves for the airstrip, they are ambushed and most of Silva’s team is taken out in the blink of an eye. Now Silva and the remaining Overwatch operatives must finish the mission at all costs.
MILE 22 has been amped up from the beginning with STXfilms announcing that a sequel had been greenlit even before the release and that a spin-off TV show and VR property were also in the works. The film has been bashed from numerous sites saying that the plot is convoluted and the action is unwatchable but I am here to say that for all the bad press, I loved the movie. It was intense and slick and Wahlberg’s unusual killer disguised as a hero character was a breath of fresh air. A lot of people are saying that he is too over the top but I thought that Silva is the new kind of protagonist we need. He’s brutal and honest and doesn’t care what it takes to get the job done. In terms of character development, Wahlberg and Cohan’s characters are the only ones that get a true back story with Cohan’s Alice Kerr being a single mother who never gets to see her daughter because of the life she has. It doesn’t help that her ex (played by director Peter Berg) roadblocks her at every turn. This gives Alice a layer that makes you care about her and you want to see her prevail so she can see her child once more. The rest of the cast including Rousey and Malkovich are more supporting roles but they have their moments. Unfortunately, if you are a Ronda Rousey fan, then you wil be disappointed as the former MMA star turned actress does not get any fight scenes. I did not mind and thought that it was great that Cohan was the one that got to be the bad ass throughout the film.
Now, of course, Iko Uwais stars in his first Hollywood mainstream film and even though it doesn’t reach the epic status of his RAID films, he still gets to show off his awesome array of unarmed combat skills in two fights as well as a few other altercations. The first scene where Uwais is handcuffed to a hospital bed is exceptionally intense and violent and Uwais shows the world what he is made of. I for one loved the initial ambush scene where Uwais fended off attackers while never getting out of the SUV. It was fast and extreme all the way. Uwais does get shine at the end in a hallway corridor in a broken down apartment building where he, once again, dispenses some hyper violent beatdowns on his assailants. While this film may not be on the scale of THE RAID, it sure does still kick a whole lot of ass.
Now about the complaints of the choppy editing. I knew of this going in and thought uh-oh but while watching the film, I had no problem seeing what was going on. Yes it was fast but as long as you pay attention, the action is right there for you to enjoy. I know many of you will disagree but that is my opinion. Would I have liked long, smooth camera angles? Hell yeah but I still enjoyed the action on the screen non the less. The last 2/3 of the film is nothing but firefights and fisticuffs and you rarely have the opportunity to catch your breath.
The only downside I had with MILE 22 was its open ended conclusion. There is a major twist that I did not see coming and I commend the filmmakers for doing what they did but if we do not get the sequel they said was coming due to the bad reviews and performance at the box office then there will be many questions left unanswered. I sure hope we get to see what happens next because it could be epic but if not, I will continue to enjoy MILE 22 for what it is.
To sum it all up. MILE 22, in my mind, does not deserve the bad reviews that it is getting. Reviews are one’s own opinions and this is mine. MILE 22 is an ultra-violent, hyper-kinetic action film that delivers had R rated excitement and Iko Uwais shines in his scenes and it was great to see him let loose on the big screen. Wahlberg brings it once again in his unconventional performance of James Silva and Cohan gets to to show off her bad ass side even more than she does in THE WALKING DEAD. After directing multiple true life dramas, Berg has crafted a full on, all out action film that will make you sweat while watching it. I know it did for me. It reminded me of the good ‘ol days when action films were made with practical stunts and pyrotechnics before CGI took over. If we don’t get any more installments then so be it but I will certainly be adding MILE 22 into my collection when it comes out on home video. That is my opinion and you can’t change my mind!
VERDICT: ACTION-FLIX APPROVED!!!!
MILE 22 is now playing in theaters everywhere from STXfilms