If you were expecting that “Mile 22” is some type of sequel to Eminem’s “8 Mile”, well, put that idea out of your head. If you are prepared to “Lose Yourself” in an overly complicated movie full of bloody violence and gory death scenes, then you’re in the right place. At least both of these movies feature an ex-rapper in the starring role. But Mark Wahlburg takes the non-musical approach to a tough CIA special operative out to move a valuable asset from the US Embassy to the airport. But for these 22 miles, he and his team are under fire and under duress. They are part of a super-secret operation that only does the dirtiest of dirty jobs for the government.
James Silva (Mark Wahlberg) is part of this unique operation called ‘Overwatch’, and they have a job to do. They are taking down a Russian safe house, located in a beautiful suburb outside of Washington DC. But in the chaos of the operation a teenage Russian boy gets shot and killed. The operatives walk away with a sack full of hard drives and leave a bunch of dead Russians in the house. They don’t give it another thought. But wheels have been set into motion that will come back to haunt them later. But it is time to break to Two Years Later, and to another country…
Silva and some fellow operatives are later located in a (fictitious) Southeastern Asian country. Alice Kerr (Lauren Cohan) and Samantha Snow (Ronda Rousey) work with Silva to retrieve some stolen nuclear material. The Intel is all wrong, and the source is a local Army officer named Li Noor (Iko Uwais). Silva gets all worked up, because his character is prone to long-winded speeches about how everyone around him is dumb. Li Noor comes to the US Embassy and turns himself in. He wants to make a deal — but only if he is taken to America. He has a hard drive with all the details of the missing MacGuffin materials, but it will self-destruct unless he gives them the password.
The ‘Overwatch’ team kicks into high gear, lead by Bishop (John Malkovich). They have only the best tech and the biggest guns, so these guys will never lose, right? Silva and his team must transport Li Noor from the Embassy to the airport for a pickup and a flight to the States. They have it all planned out, until the plan gets shredded by the local country’s secret police and undercover spies. There is an attempt on Li Noor’s life while he is in the Embassy. So you know once they leave, their convoy of vehicles will be under attack for every minute of the trip. One by one, Silva’s team members are shot and or exploded (or worse). Li Noor is in handcuffs, but eventually Silva relents and gives him the freedom to fight back.
After many minutes of non-stop fighting and explosions and high-caliber rounds being shot, Silva gets Li Noor and Alice to the rendezvous point. All is well at that point. But then there are some deeper secrets that are revealed. There are call backs to the first scene with the Russian safe house and some things that are not quite as straightforward as they seem. The plot gets twisted around like a Bavarian pretzel. And there isn’t any good German beer to go with the pretzel…
“Mile 22” is the fourth collaboration between Mark Wahlberg and director Peter Berg. The other movies were based on a true story, and this is the first that is fictional. But the concept was done before. Think “The Gauntlet”, with Clint Eastwood. And then again see “16 Blocks” with Bruce Willis. The basic plot of somebody needing to get someone else to a particular place is not exactly new. Dressing it up as a secret undercover operation is new, and adding about ten layers of double-cross is somewhat new.
Wahlberg plays a character that is very unlikable, and he commands a tight unit. They are supposed to be the most elite unit. But for this operation, they look like a bunch of buffoons. The movie goes into depth about how special this team is, and how important they are. But what is shown is an orgy of automatic weapons and a whole slew of stupid decisions.
The writing is bi-polar, giving Wahlberg little mini-speeches where his character goes off on vulgar tangents. The overall twist in the plot has way too many holes. The editing and frantic pace gets you feeling very jittery after a while. You never get a clear understanding of the progress to the goal. Have they gone 10 miles, or 15 miles? Who can tell? Plus the actual action of the journey to the airport does not begin until the last third of the movie.
Peter Berg has worked with Mark Wahlberg on other, much better projects. “Lone Survivor”, “Deepwater Horizon” and “Patriot’s Day” are very excellent movies. But now they have teamed up for this one, which you might like, or you might not. With “Mile 22”, your mileage may vary.