Mile 22 is a movie where John Malkovich (in a weird hairpiece) looks straight into the camera and says, “He’s not a double agent…He’s a triple agent!” That pretty much sums up the quality of this latest collaboration between Mark Wahlberg and director Peter Berg. It is loud, full of action, and constantly twists itself in stupid knots trying to be more than a fun summer blockbuster.
Mile 22 opens with a decently long prologue of a team known as ‘Overwatch’ (no relation to the video game), led by Mark Wahlberg infiltrating a Russian sleeper cell home in a suburban town. Wahlberg’s on the ground team consists of Lauren Cohan and Ronda Rousey. In the sky, there is John Malkovich and a group of computer nerds watching every aspect of the operation. There are also two males on Wahlberg’s team which I will address in a minute. This opening sequence is really, really well done, It has a lot of tension and the suspense builds and builds through the final moments. Despite my enjoyment of the scene overall they still went out of their way to show that ‘Overwatch’, which is allegedly the best of the best and doesn’t exist, is also really terrible at their job because all the planning and technology advantages they still let some 20-year-old guy get the drop on the two male members of ‘Overwatch’ killing them.
After this entertaining opening scene, we are treated to one of the dumbest credit sequences I’ve ever watched. It chronicles Mark Wahlberg’s character’s life from orphanages to elite training through pictures and classified documents. It goes on forever and is painfully uninspired. It was at this point I was getting concerned with how bad this movie was going to be. I held my breath though because Iko Uwais from The Raid films was in the movie and I knew there would be great action.
The actual plot of this film begins when Iko Uwais shows up at an American embassy and claims he knows the location of a nuclear compound that the Overwatch team was looking for. In exchange for the information, he asks for asylum in the United States. Men attack Iko Uwais‘ character in the embassy and Overwatch is activated to bring him to the airfield 22 miles away. Now you’re probably wondering, Why not just bring in helicopters? Or call in American troops? Or when an embassy is attacked have a few scenes explaining why we’d just let that happen? If you have those questions don’t worry because Mile 22 spends exactly zero seconds addressing them. I normally wouldn’t care about these little plot things but Mile 22 goes out of its way later in the film to become so convoluted and complicated that there was someone trying to tell a story somewhere. They just forgot to tell us why anything on screen had to happen the way it did. Sure enough during the transport, they are attacked and SPOILER ALERT more of these elite Overwatch members die unceremoniously. Seriously, don’t call them an elite team just say it is Mark Wahlberg and some lackeys.
Throughout the cat and mouse game on the way to the airfield we are treated to every single character in this film calling Mark Wahlberg an asshole. I’m not kidding. Every single character at some point goes out of their way to point out what a terrible person Wahlberg is and I loved it. Anyone who leaves at halftime of the Super Bowl of their favorite team can never be 100% a hero on screen again. I’m glad Hollywood recognizes that. We also go through several iterations of is the person they’re transporting 22 miles a good or bad guy so that was really fresh an hour in. Peter Berg’s movies are always watchable to pretty good for me. I don’t think he is a bad director but he stated in interviews that the main reason he wanted to make this film was that Iko Uwais was in it.
If you don’t know who Iko Uwais is then just youtube anything from The Raid and understand he choreographs and performs those scenes. Iko gets 3 hand to hand combat scenes in this movie and I couldn’t tell what was happening in a single one. The Raid movies are known for their long fights and the editing is so perfect that you never lose sight of the space or people in the scene. Peter Berg chops it up in these scenes so bad that several awesome shots or moves that Iko does are undercut by the rapid edit or angle change. It was abysmal and hugely disappointing. The shootouts were handled much better and you can tell that Berg has been making these movies for so long now that he knows exactly how to stage a shootout with big explosions.
This isn’t a nice review. I’m sorry about that. My final complaint is that this movie suffers from the studio desperately needing a franchise or sequels. It is so blatant and pathetic in this film that several members of my audience either laughed at the ending or said ‘Come on.’ I can assure you neither reaction was good. We have a great prologue and cliche middle and an ending that turns on a dime. Not for the sake of some twist or earned moment but literally because someone said they might make a Mile 23 so don’t close up any of the stories from this movie. I can tell you right now, I don’t give a crap about the conclusion to this story. If this movie ended but Mile 23 was announced and it was a new mission then I’d say well maybe it will be better.
This movie thinks the audience cares enough about this story that everyone involved cut the film off and set up the sequel which is really just a continuation of this exact story. Sequels may have events stem from the previous movies and returning characters but movies are usually enough of a closed system that you can find the conclusion to each chapter before moving on to the next one. This stupid movie ended and I jokingly said they needed a “NEXT WEEK ON…” Tv style advertisement after the credits. It felt forced. It was lame. Red Sparrow did a similar thing but it concluded the story it was telling for 2 hours while opening up the future sequel… this movie just kept everything open.
If a Mark Wahlberg movie where he is a complete jerk for 2 hours but does some cool things during shootouts is your bread and butter then this movie is for you. For the rest of you out there, this movie is worth an FX Movie channel watch when you’re stuck at your in-law’s house and nothing else is on TV over Christmas break.