Mile 22, the latest film from Peter Berg and action star Mark Wahlberg has a lot of action and laughs, but never really goes anywhere. Co-star Iko Uwais is the film’s ace in the hole.
In the world of filmic espionage, it’s not enough to have a character like James Bond who can save the world with a shake of his martini and the roar of his Aston Martin. It’s not even enough that Jason Bourne can single-handedly stop his own betters from trying to silence him. And, let’s not forget the Impossible Missions Force and Ethan Hunt. Nope. Peter Berg’s Mile 22 introduces us to a new covert paramilitary team, ‘Ground Branch’.
James Silva (Mark Wahlberg) is holding on by a string, mentally. But he uses this edge to lead his ground team, including Alice Kerr (Lauren Cohan), Sam Snow (Ronda Rousey) and Douglas (Carlo Alban). Following a mission, the team is assigned to a far Asian post where Li Noor (Iko Uwais) presents himself to the embassy with an encrypted disc and a plea for asylum.
The story by Graham Roland and Lea Carpenter, screenplay by Carpenter, focuses on diffusion using a flash forward to tell the rest of the story. In its basic essence, the story is a revenge plot. But, the beauty and the tragedy of that stylistic choice is that we get lost in the action so that when the reveal happens you’re distracted from what got you to that point.
Wahlberg continues to be in multiple places at once, which here you don’t mind, or at least I didn’t mind it. He is the quintessential hero and his role in Mile 22 is no exception. He isn’t as low key as Ben Affleck’s Chris Wolff (“The Accountant”) yet Wahlberg takes essentially the same approach to the character of James Silva. He’s eccentric and though he cares about his team, when it comes to being in the field, his priority is “the package”.
Iko Uwais is truly the star of Mile 22. Here he is a bit more cool or reserved than we’ve seen him in more aggressive action films like The Raid or Headshot. He’s also very suave as he works to build the team’s trust. There’s an ambush early in the second act where the host government’s agents try to take him out. His action stunt work and choreography are absolutely stunning and we are convinced that there is an imminent threat against his life, inducing a 22 mile jaunt to a landing strip where a military aircraft is waiting for the package.
All throughout the excitement, is a crew in a remote location, led by James Bishop (John Malkovich). This crew is Silva’s eyes and ears. They really are the comic relief throughout Mile 22. None of the comedy feels forced and I would have liked more of it: the way the comedy is interweaved with the action underscores the tension.
One of the best moments in Mile 22 is when a colleague gets trapped in an apartment complex with a team closing in on our heroes. The sequence, which plays like “The Raid” lite breaks the action with comedy. We all get a moment of relief before the final act.
That final act really is a letdown. The ‘twist’ is something we’ve seen many times and its handled as well as it possibly could have. Wahlberg is a lot of fun, but his heroic schlock is wearing thin. Perhaps it is his fourth collaboration with Peter Berg. They make solid films together, but somehow they manage to follow the same action – drama – comedy beats. The ace here is Uwais. His swiftness matches Wahlberg’s smartass reactions.
Too bad Mile 22‘s story is as successful.
Now in theaters, Mile 22 has been rated R by the MPAA.