MILE 22

Will Mark Wahlberg’s lat­est be the first movie to get the big 22 stars? Spoiler: no.

Empire (UK) - - CONTENTS - JOHN NU­GENT

DI­REC­TOR Peter Berg CAST Mark Wahlberg, John Malkovich, Lau­ren Co­han, Iko Uwais, Ronda Rousey

PLOT In the South­east Asia coun­try of In­do­carr, a po­lice of­fi­cer (Uwais) holds the key to sen­si­tive ter­ror­ist in­tel that could save the lives of mil­lions. It’s up to elite para­mil­i­tary agent James Silva (Wahlberg) and his team to es­cort him across a city to safety — but a lot can hap­pen in 22 miles.

UP UN­TIL NOW, the col­lab­o­ra­tions be­tween di­rec­tor Peter Berg and star Mark Wahlberg have fo­cused on hon­our­ing the sto­ries of all-amer­i­can he­roes. This film, their fourth to­gether, is purely fic­tional. And, with no real peo­ple to hon­our, Berg and ’Berg have de­cided to switch it up by fo­cus­ing on a char­ac­ter who is, as pre­sented here, an all-amer­i­can ass­hole.

Meet James Silva (Wahlberg), an agent of the CIA’S elite ‘Ground Branch’, which per­haps sounds more hor­ti­cul­tural than in­tended but is ac­tu­ally the ‘third op­tion’ af­ter both diplo­matic and mil­i­taris­tic so­lu­tions have been de­pleted — the shady off-the-books op­er­a­tion. Silva, as a breath­less ti­tle se­quence ex­plains, is an ex­pe­ri­enced soldier blessed with a su­pe­rior brain (“his mind moves faster than most!”). The only ev­i­dence for this rare in­tel­li­gence seems to be Silva’s love for blank jig­saw puz­zles, a vis­ual mo­tif which is only clever if you don’t think about it for too long.

Wahlberg was born to play hot­heads with short fuses, but Silva is far too abra­sive for us to side with. He’s like Wahlberg’s char­ac­ter in The De­parted, if The De­parted had atro­cious di­a­logue. He lashes out at ev­ery­thing from for­eign dig­ni­taries to birth­day cakes, and never quite con­vinces in his com­pe­tence as an elite su­per-soldier. Still, as the nom­i­nal hero of this tale, Silva is tasked with safely trans­port­ing a hu­man Macguf­fin across a city, and so his 22-mile mis­sion be­gins. For all its es­pi­onage pos­tur­ing, there’s a very straight­for­ward ac­tion movie here: pro­tect the as­set, shoot the bad guys.

Berg’s strengths al­ways lay in stag­ing tense, mus­cu­lar ac­tion, and there’s cer­tainly a cou­ple of stand­out se­quences: a palm-moist­en­ing pre-cred­its raid on a safe house which goes smoothly, un­til it doesn’t; and a fu­ri­ous hos­pi­tal fight scene with The Raid’s Iko Uwais. Mostly, though, the ac­tion takes the form of end­less and quite bor­ing gun­fire ex­change, with huge por­tions of the film ren­dered in­co­her­ent by Berg’s trig­ger-happy edit­ing finger.

None of this is helped by a script which jug­gles un­in­ten­tion­ally hi­lar­i­ous di­a­logue (“I’m go­ing to the fight the fuck out of these moth­er­fuck­ers!”) with deeply prob­lem­atic pol­i­tics. Tor­ture and drone strikes are cal­lously ad­vo­cated as “a higher form of pa­tri­o­tism”. There’s some guilty fun to be had from all the ex­cite­ment, but un­like Berg and Wahlberg’s ear­lier works, it’s hard to shake the un­com­fort­able feel­ing that you’re be­ing in­vited to root for the bad guys.

VER­DICT A tense and nasty thriller, Mile 22 is a frus­trat­ing ex­pe­ri­ence that makes you won­der if Peter Berg should stick to de­pict­ing real-life tragedies in­stead.

★★ OUT 19 SEPTEM­BER CERT 12A / 94 MINS

Gun­ning for trou­ble: Mark Wahlberg plays a clever-clogs CIA agent.

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