FILM REVIEW – MILE 22. With Mark Wahlberg, Lauren Cohan, Iko Uwais, John Malkovich, Sam Medina. Written by Lea Carpenter. Directed by Peter Berg. Rated R for strong violence and language throughout. 95 minutes.
If MILE 22 isn’t already a video game, it ought to be. With sketched-in characters and a by-the-numbers plot, it’s really an excuse for 90-or-so-minutes of relentless action, including shootings, explosions, knifings, and martial arts. It’s not unwatchable, but afterward, you’ll recall the fight scenes, not the several loose ends with which it leaves us.
Mark Wahlberg is reunited with director Peter Berg for the third time (after “Lone Survivor,” “Deepwater Horizon,” and “Patriots Day”) in what is clearly intended as a new franchise. Wahlberg plays James Silva, a brilliant but deeply troubled top-secret operative for the CIA. His unit is so secret that when they go on a mission they’re required to resign from government service so that their actions can be disavowed.
After a prologue in which they kill the inhabitants of a suburban home that was actually being used by the Russians as a safe house, the action shifts to a third world country (shot on location in Colombia) where Li Noor (Iko Uwais), a local police officer, has information about the location of stolen nuclear materials. He’s placed it on a device that will self-destruct in eight hours unless provided with the password, and he’ll only divulge that password if provided safe passage to the United States.
That’s the set-up. Silva has a limited amount of time to travel the 22 miles to the airstrip with his “package” and get the password. Along the way he is aided by a remote team led by “Mother” (John Malkovich) and a crew of largely anonymous people except for Alice Kerr (Lauren Cohan), whose sole identifying trait is that she’s a divorced mother who misses her little girl and gets angry at her ex (director Berg in a cameo). Trying to stop them is a local government official (Sam Medina) who seems two steps ahead of them for no discernible reason.
The bulk of the movie consists of Silva, Noor, and their dwindling crew being chased and engaging in a series of action scenes. The fights are brutal, the explosions are big, and the series of twists at the end are clearly an attempt to set up another movie. Not everyone makes it to the end, although we know Silva does because the action is intercut with scenes of him being debriefed after the fact.
In many ways, this is a smaller version of the current “Mission: Impossible – Fallout,” with both films featuring super-secret operatives trying to recover stolen nuclear material. Both films feature heroes unable to maintain relationships, but where Tom Cruise’s character has the fierce loyalty of his team, Wahlberg’s character is so intense that he has scenes of berating the people working with him. Wahlberg has a number of outstanding performances in his film career, although none of them are from his working with director Berg, who uses him as a generic “hero” cipher.
“Mile 22” may well lead to sequels, but it’s unlike to do for Wahlberg what the “Mission: Impossible” films do for Tom Cruise or the “Bourne” films do for Matt Damon. Instead, it’s merely a serviceable late summer action film, likely to be forgotten by Labor Day.•••
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His latest novel is Time on My Hands: My Misadventures in Time Travel. He is the 2018 recipient of the Skylark Award given by the New England Science Fiction Association. He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.