By: Kevin Jordan
As I have been thinking about what to say about Mile 22, I spent some time perusing other reviews to see what other critics have been saying. Of note, the early-review embargo for Mile 22 was not lifted until Thursday, so pickings were slim. The initial consensus was that the movie is a brutal action flick with far too much action and that director Peter Berg edited the film – especially the action scenes – like a rabid chipmunk on crack. Also, that the film is a species of shit. While I agree with most of those sentiments, too much action? That is like complaining that a comedy has too many jokes or a porno has too much sex. This is not a problem.
The one thing those reviews barely mention (if at all) is that you have seen this movie before. Many times. The main plot is that a team of secret agents has a limited amount of time to escort an informant from point A to point B while a whole lot of people try to kill them. S.W.A.T., Babylon A.D., Safe House, you get the idea. There are plenty of others, but those three are the same level of quality of Mile 22. That *ahem* quality appears in the title – the distance between said point A and point B, but with bad grammar. Given how microscopically thin the characters and story are, that title makes perfect sense.
James Silva (Mark Wahlberg) leads a team of paramilitary agents that are so secret and lethal, they are only called upon when diplomacy and the military failed. No, seriously, he tells us this, describing their operation (codenamed Overwatch) as option three. On the surface, this statement makes no sense whatsoever, but when you think about it for a minute, you get a headache. The film opens with Silva and team raiding a Russian FSB safe house and displaying why Silva and team are option three instead of option one or two. Using technology from a galaxy far, far away to peer through walls and locate five people in the house, they herd them into a sitting room where the team does not tie up the Russian spies and while one team member rummages through hard drives. Due to action movie cliche requirements, their magical x-ray drones miss a sixth person in the house and all hell breaks loose, ending with six dead Russians, one dead agent, and an exploded house. Silva is right – rolling a tank through the house was probably a better idea, but someone decided to skip straight to option three instead.
Months later, in a country in southeast Asia that is not important enough to named by the film, the team is tracking down a supply of cesium. In case you do not know what cesium is, you will after Silva berates a team member with every scary cesium fact he knows because that team member has not cracked the uncrackable encryption of a hard drive in the five minutes since the last time he yelled at her. Speaking of which, Silva is an asshole. We are supposed to be forgiving of his assholiness because he is on the autism spectrum (implied) and had a rough childhood. In what passes for a backstory for Silva, we find out his mind works faster than everybody else’s, he is prone to violent outbursts, and his parents died in an accident when he was twelve, so of course he became a Jason Bourne type agent. The problem is that when he is not shooting bad guys, he is obnoxiously snapping a large yellow rubber band on his wrist (we are told this is to keep his emotions in check, which means he would otherwise be murdering everyone in Overwatch without it) while monologuing in the worst case of diarrhea-of-the-mouth outside of a certain president’s Twitter feed.
The problem with Silva’s backstory is that none of his traits are useful, including his so-called super fast mind. All it actually does is tell us why he was recruited as an agent, which does not matter to the movie or to the audience. But, at least he got a backstory. With the exception of agent Alice Kerr (Lauren Cohan) and the informant, Li Noor (Iko Uwais), not a single character is more than a trope, and Alice and Li only barely. There is a computer guy, a computer girl, another computer guy and another computer girl, a boss, another boss, three team members who probably had first names, and John Malkovich playing John Malkovich with a buzz cut.
I get it though. This is an action movie, so let me tell you a bit about the action. Those other critics are not wrong about the insane number of cuts shredding the visuals. But, that did not bother me. That is how most movies are these days and we are used to it. Do not get me wrong – I wish it would stop so we could actually see all of the choreography in the scenes. From what I could see, Iko Uwais appears to be an amazing martial artist kicking the ass of everyone near him. Also from what I could see, he grabs a guy by the head and rakes that guy’s neck back and forth over the broken glass of car door’s window frame. Cut away! Cut away!
In short, the film is a brutal action flick with nothing more to say than scary words like ouroboros and radioactive. The film fails in almost every way possible, including casting Ronda Rousey and not giving her a single fight scene (not kidding even a little bit). There is a good moment or two, especially an unexpected twist at the end, but you may be so numb from the brutal violence and Silva’s brutal dialogue to notice or care. It is too bad there was not an option four.
Rating: Ask for all but a dollar back and remember to snap that rubber band rather than the alternative.