Director: Peter Berg
Screenwriter: Lea Carpenter, from a story by Carpenter and Graham Roland.
Runtime: 94 mins.
Australian release date: 30 August 2018
Previewed at: Roadshow Theatrette, Sydney, on 24 August 2018.
Previous collaborations between the director Peter Berg and his leading man, Mark Wahlberg, have produced some high-action movies based on true stories, namely Lone Survivor, Deepwater Horizon and Patriots Day. On this occasion they have run with a script developed from an original idea by Lea Carpenter and Graham Rowland and already there is an untitled Mile 22 sequel in the wings. Not only that, it has also been ear-marked as a franchise trilogy so they’re obviously expecting big things from this movie. Whether this happens remains to be seen because Mile 22 has met with a pretty unfavourable critical response, although it has done reasonably well at the box office (and it’s only the bottom line that matters in Hollywood), so if Wahlberg remains attached to the project, the next two instalments will probably come to fruition.
Filmed in Bogota, Colombia, but set in a fictional mega-city in Indonesia, Mile 22 is the story of James Silva (Mark Wahlberg), an elite CIA black-operative who’s given the task of escorting Li Noor (Iko Uwais, the Indonesian action star), a renegade member of the special forces, to a jet located at an airstrip 22 miles from the US Embassy, where it will briefly land to transport Noor to the States. Only there, just prior to the flight, will the traitor reveal a password that will halt a dastardly plot involving toxic bombs hidden in seven locations around the world which will cause mass destruction if activated. Naturally, the Indonesian authorities are out to capture Noor for themselves and, to make matters more intriguing, a Russian spy plane seems to be tracking everything that’s going on, The inevitable shoot-outs and body-counts pile up as Wahlberg and his small team of agents try to make their way across the city, while being closely monitored by a secretive US-run hi-tech force following their movements from a control room administered by the sneaker-wearing Commander Bishop (John Malkovich). Because the escape plane can only be on the ground for 10 minutes, it’s a race against time and no-one is too sure if Noor can be trusted.
Wahlberg is at times indecipherable and he seems to be having an-ongoing conversation with his navel until you realise he’s miked and he’s talking to ‘Mother’, code-name of Bishop. Furthermore, Silva seems to be ‘on the spectrum’, as they say; he thinks at a rate of knots and gets so worked up he has to constantly flick his wrist with an elastic band to keep grounded. His dialogue is loaded with the tough no-nonsense lingo one would expect from a man who lives solely to save the world from evil. Still, Wahlberg is very good at this kind of role and his performance in Mile 22 is no exception. Iko Uwais is excellent, too. He is a master of silat, a form of martial art that’s indigenous to Indonesia, and his advanced skills at close-quarter combat are aptly displayed here. It’s a minor quibble, but there’s an entire section of the film that seems to have been lifted from Gareth Evans’ 2011 movie The Raid, which also starred Uwais. The team are trapped in an apartment building, outnumbered by the opposing forces, and have to fight their way out. One suspects that this franchise is made with an eye on the Asian market with the inclusion of this martial arts star, who could competently fill the gap left by Jackie Chan, so it looks like we are in for some pretty amazing fight scenes on screen in the future. Look out for Uwais’s eye-popping performance when battling with a couple of medicos. It is like watching Bruce Lee on speed!
At one point, Silva mumbles a quote erroneously attributed to George Orwell, that refers to ‘people sleeping peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf’. Certainly, there’s no denying that Berg’s Mile 22 is ‘wrapped in the flag’ and gives the impression that only the good ol' USA stands between free people and total anarchy, because everyone else is a ‘baddie’. The ending, therefore, comes as a bit of a surprise but it’s an obvious set-up for the sequel. If you’re a fan of this kind of action film, you’ll be hanging out for Mile 22 2, or will it be Mile 23?