August 17, 2018
Starring Mark Wahlberg, Iko Uwais, Lauren Cohan and John Malkovich. Directed by Peter Berg. 95 minutes. Opens Friday at major theatres. 14A
Peter Berg has an eclectic career as an actor, producer, screenwriter and director in both film and television.
Mile 22 a fast-paced spy thriller
As director, he’s also worked a lot with actor Mark Wahlberg — a muse of sorts — in such films as Patriots Day and Deepwater Horizon, both in 2016, and Lone Survivor (2013), with another collaboration, called Wonderland, in the works.
Berg has explored a range of themes in his previous work, including armed conflict, while also focusing on the indomitability and grit of individuals facing long odds. Mile 22 fits right into that oeuvre, and Wahlberg serves, once again, as the stalwart hero.
This time, the avenue of war is the world of high-stakes, high-tech espionage. The film opens with an apt scene, the brutal and efficient takedown of Russian agents hiding out in a house in an idyllic suburban American setting by the ultra-top-secret Overwatch team, commanded by Bishop a.k.a. Mother (John Malkovich) and led on the ground by Silva (Wahlberg), whose troubled earlier life is briefly essayed.
The credits roll and then we’re into a whole other operation, 16 months later, that almost certainly connects to the previous one.
This time, the team is in a fictional Southeast Asian country where a reliable intelligence “source” shows up at the U.S. Embassy with an urgent request for extraction and asylum, and a coded device that will reveal the whereabouts of a deadly compound capable of wreaking death and destruction.
The team has an exceedingly perilous 22-mile trek ahead to get Li Noor (Iko Uwais), a local cop much wanted by the corrupt government, from the embassy to an awaiting plane. The concept has been done before — think 16 Blocks (2006) or The Gauntlet (1977) — but this time, the story is denser and more complex, with local assassins imperilling the team and the Russians with eyes in the sky.
Wahlberg gets to employ his thespian skills more fully than usual as Silva, a ruthless killer with a philosophical streak who regularly snaps his elastic around his wrist to curb his impulse to violence, and Uwais, a celebrated martial artist and action star in his native Indonesia — as demonstrated in The Raid (2011) and The Raid 2 (2014) — is his Zen-like counterpart, who meditates with his hands as carnage rages around him.
Malkovich is watchable in anything he does, and The Walking Dead’s Lauren Cohan is a believable badass as Alice, a member of the Overwatch team.
The screenplay by Lea Carpenter is well-crafted and intricate, as spy thrillers are intended to be, although Berg moves the action along so quickly, it’d be easy to miss one or two bits that will make the upcoming twist more satisfying. But Berg knows how to shoot action and there’s plenty to see.
In all, a cracking good action film/spy caper with some fine performances makes Mile 22 a rollicking summer escape.
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