Friday, August 17, 2018

Mile 22: Peter Berg Directs Iko Uwais

Unfortunately, Congress will probably have to apply the Magnitsky Act to more Russian officials after this explosive kerfuffle. The Russians has compromised the coms of the CIA’s double-secret tactical unit, to feed real-time intel to the terror-supporting security service of a country not completely dissimilar from Indonesia. Their mission is to extract a source who can pin-point large quantities of stolen cesium-137, but it will be a particularly hard day at the office for James Silva’s team in Peter Berg’s Mile 22 (trailer here), which opens today nationwide.

Silva was a child prodigy, who still has trouble with that human relationship kind of stuff. However, he can most definitely shoot, fight, and make command decisions on the fly. We see his team take out a safe-house full of Russian agents in the prologue, with only one fatality on their side, so you know they must be tough. Flashing forward to the rest of the film, we find Silva is now stationed in Indocarr, or some such, where the embassy team faces a bit of a quandary.

Li Noor was a top asset recruited by Silva’s human intel specialist, Alice Kerr. He has a Mission Impossible-protected disk, loaded with the locations of the missing cesium, but it will self-destruct if Li is not safely delivered out of the country. Silva’s team will escort him to the CIA transport plane, but they will have to drive through downtown Not-Jakarta. It should be easy with “Mother” and his fellow “Overwatch” controllers guiding them from an undisclosed location, butt they take fire from the elite secret police every step of the way.

Admittedly, there are two considerable issues of internal logic that plague Mile 22. For one thing, you would think a prodigy like Silva, who supposedly has to slow down his mile-a-minute thoughts by snapping an elastic band on his wrist would realize: “hey, isn’t it funny they always know exactly where we’re going? Why, it is like they can hear us talking.” Also, since Li is played by Iko Uwais, why not just turn him loose on the goons commanded by the sinister Axel?

Of course, Uwais is definitely the best thing going for the film. He has a featured fight scene in the embassy clinic that is up there with his best work in the Raid franchise. He also adapts quite smoothly to the run-and-gun style of action that is the stock-and-trade of Silva’s team. Mark Wahlberg also definitely has the right kind of commando presence, while credibly portraying Silva slightly on the spectrum.

As you would expect, Ronda Rousey holds up her end as team member Sam Snow, but John Malkovich is disappointingly restrained as Mother. Likewise, K-Pop star Chae-rin Lee (CL) does not have much to do as Overwatch controller “Queen,” but hey, she looks fabulous. On the other hand, former New York Ranger (and one-time Vogue magazine intern) Sean Avery has a dynamite sort-of-cameo as “Assault One,” during the prologue.

Action fans, especially those who dug Wahlberg’s previous films with Berg will be utterly shocked by how dark Mile 22 gets. However, you have to give them credit for going there. That is why it is unfair of kneejerk critics to automatically dismiss the film. Yes, Berg and screenwriter Lea Carpenter invite viewers to celebrate the sacrifices made by the American military and intelligence services to protect our liberty, but Silva’s team pays an awfully high price and swallows some profoundly bitter pills during the course of the film. It will leave audiences in a mood of wary vigilance rather than triumphalism. (Yet, if the film is a hit, the sequel practically writes itself.)

Regardless, it is quite a zippy commando movie that makes good use of Uwais, Wahlberg, and their action co-stars. Accessible but gritty, Mile 22 is recommended for mainstream genre fans when it opens today (8/17) across the country, including the AMC Empire in New York.