Generally, the archetype for the macho, military-bred, man’s man action hero takes a quieter approach to life, letting his actions, not to mention his guns, do the talking for him. Well, not this time. In Peter Berg’s Mile 22, the latest addition to the Wahl-Berg collaboration, the hero Jimmy Silva (Mark Wahlberg) cannot stop talking. At one point, Silva becomes so entranced with creating a clever Heat-like meeting of the foes that his commander (John Malkovich) snaps “stop monologuing you bipolar f***!” I almost cheered.
Jimmy Silva has to be one of the most repulsive characters ever set up to lead an action franchise – though I don’t see Mile 23 happening anytime soon. His coworkers who try to diagnose him can only agree that there’s something there to diagnose. Whether he’s manic, bi-polar, or just obsessively angry, Jimmy puts the “smart” in smart ass. A spoon-fed exposition recapping the parentless and furious childhood of the boy genius goes hand-in-hand with the rest of the film, which ends with a pissed-off Wahlberg not using his Britannica-sized brain to figure out why someone would bring up his dead mother.
This is actually the fourth time that Berg and Wahlberg have made one of these manly man action movie. Until now, they’ve all been based on true stories: Lone Survivor, Deepwater Horizon and Patriot’s Day. Mile 22, written by Lea Carpenter, is entirely fiction. But if you think that this one doesn’t have a current red, white, and blue message to share, you would be wrong…kind of. It’s weird, and also pretty dumb. Just don’t think about it too much.
Anyways, the film demonstrates right away the sophistication of Jimmy’s crew. With a laboratory of secure military technology at their disposal, and a rerouting/traffic system that puts Waze to shame, these are some seriously covert operatives. “Mother” (Malkovich) runs the show behind a screen and in his sneakers as his “children” stop the bad guys. The first scene has the team push through an everyday suburban home where some Russians are up to no good. Seems pretty basic, but this (impressively) proves to be more than an introductory blow-em-up sequence.
The rest of the film is dedicated to the apprehension of nuclear “fear” powder which could leave six of the world’s most populated cities uninhabitable – didn’t Tom Cruise just do something like this? A foreign defector named Li Noor knows the location and will happily spill the beans in exchange for American asylum.
The title Mile 22 refers to the distance between the United States Embassy and the airstrip where Silva and his team need to deliver Noor. The corrupt local government, however, has an un-calculated number of soldiers prepared to prevent this from happening.
Noor’s played by Iko Uwais, an action star from Indonesia who’s not too well known here. His punching and kicking arsenal provides the film with its most exciting sequences – him having to fight off two assassins while handcuffed to a hospital bed being one of them. In comparison, Wahlberg’s out of his element.
One scene has Mark and Iko combat a couple of furious, well-trained female fighters. It must’ve been difficult to make Wahlberg look like he could keep up with actors who perform like they could punch through wooden boards at age 2. With that said, the fighting primarily takes artillery form, and it’s nothing special.
The action’s intercut with scenes of Silva in a suit and tie. He’s debriefing the operation which is playing out in front of us to members of some form of government agency. Or maybe it was one of those too secret for the government agencies? Honestly, I’m not sure, but these scenes not only seem to interrupt the film’s momentum every time it starts to pick up, but also reflect Mile 22’s biggest problem: so much talking.
There are just enough explosions in Mile 22 to keep you awake throughout the almost unbelievable amount of sludge that buries the rest of the film’s trim runtime.