Movie Review: Ramped-up action can’t save ‘MILE 22’ from being cinematic roadkill

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Jared McMillan // Film Critic

MILE 22

Rated R, 95 minutes.
Director: Peter Berg
Cast: Mark WahlbergLauren CohanIko UwaisJohn MalkovichRonda Rousey and Carlo Alban

There is a scene in Peter Berg’s latest action flick, MILE 22, where Jimmy (Mark Wahlberg) comes face to face with Axel (Sam Medina) after being chased and attack by his local law enforcement. Jimmy has a diatribe about structure or something rather, then he looks at Axel and says, “You’re chaos… but I just might be a little bit worse.” This pretty much sums up the entirety of the movie, which is chaotic at best, but just a little bit worse.

The opening sequence has Jimmy and his crew closing in on a house full of Russian operatives. They are guided off-site by Mother (John Malkovich) and his Overwatch program, which consists of using various methods to enhance visibility not known from those on the ground. They manage to get the jump; however, things go south in a hurry, leading Jimmy, Alice (Lauren Cohan), Dougie (Carlo Alban), and Sam (Ronda Rousey) to execute the Russians and leave before the house is destroyed.

Fast forward 16 months to the fictional southeast Asian city of Indocarr, where his tactical unit is camped out at the American embassy. They have come up short in raiding a shipping container supposedly housing a deadly chemical, based off intel given by Alice’s contact. However, her contact, Li Noor (Iko Uwais from THE RAID franchise), has come to the embassy with additional information on a disc.
There is a catch: Get Li out of the country in eight hours, or the data “self-destructs” off the disc. Jimmy calls on Overwatch to help them get 22 miles from the embassy to the landing strip where they plane will be held for 10 minutes. Axel comes into play accompanying the Deputy Foreign Minister, and letting them know they will be coming for Li. Can they make it to the plane before all hell comes busting through the city?

Here’s another actor holding a gun in ‘MILE 22.’ Courtesy photo.

MILE 22 has a lot of good things going for it from the outset. The actor-director combination of Mark Wahlberg and Peter Berg has yielded good-to-great results with LONE SURVIVOR, DEEPWATER HORIZON, and PATRIOTS DAY. Also, Uwais is a great asset to have for close-combat action sequences to break up the shoot-em-up scenes; it gives the audience another facet of action to help keep the pace moving in a different way. From the embassy to the landing strip, the movie follows a neat storyboard pattern in moving from fight to chase to escape and repeat.

However, referring to the chaos earlier, the movie is structured like Jimmy: full of bravado, very procedural, and yet a complete mess. He has a trick to help calm his hyper-intelligent mind, but there is nothing to calm the camera’s hyperactivity. This becomes problematic when showcasing Uwais in his scenes. The presentation is making it seem like Berg and his team couldn’t keep up with his fights. Because of the lack of restraint in shooting, it leads to a barrage of quick cuts and never gives the audience enough time to react to everything.
In fact, the movie just feels out of sync the whole time. Moments of dialogue are clearly dubbed over, noticeable enough to take the listener out of the movie. Lea Carpenter’s screenplay has a lot of solid dialogue, but it is executed terribly as it’s spoken aloud. Furthermore, no one in the film is likable, except for Alice, but she is presented with more background to her character. There are good one-liners but, because there is no time to absorb what’s being said, it all gets lost in the shuffle.

As things progress in the third act, MILE 22 gives more questions than answers. One could say that the entire purpose of the movie is to feed into the paranoia surrounding the country in lieu of presidential decisions and Russian influence. If that’s the case, then there should be more to these elements, instead of cheating the audience with vague plot points and erratic fight scenes. There tend to be more questions about the purpose of the movie, instead of figuring out motivations to the moving parts. At the end of the day, there just isn’t enough going the extra mile.

[Grade: D+]

MILE 22 is now playing in theaters nationwide.

About author

Preston Barta

I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction (FreshFiction.tv) as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.