Thursday, October 11, 2018

Mile 22 – as expendable as the crackpot special ops team it features

The tension mounts as a serious of countdown clocks approach zero, with a deniable black ops team still no closer to evacuating their source of a vital code in order to recover some missing Caesium that threatens to prematurely put cinemas audiences out of their misery if it explodes. Sorry, that last bit isn’t part of the film. But it is what you’ll be hoping after an hour of this latest Mark Wahlberg/Peter Berg vehicle.

The missing nuclear material and the race to recover it may not be the only game being played. Ostensibly about failure – a fairly novel concept for a US-made special ops thriller – Mile 22 watches as a team of misfits battle through the fog of modern combat and infowars to achieve their objective. The flawed hero of the film at first seems familiar, a new version perhaps of the emotionally-damaged Jason Bourne. But the lead actor has none of the grit and vulnerability of Matt Damon.

Mark Wahlberg plays James Silva who snaps an elastic band around his wrist when his patience weakens at the super-slow pace of everyone else’s thinking, instantly blowing any cover he ever had while wandering around in public. And that’s before he opens his mouth and delivers arrogant monologues to beleaguered staff when they’re already stressed. The character quickly wears thin, unfortunately, unlike his elastic band.

Blackberry phones explode when flung across the room. But they’re only a precursor to much larger detonations. Scenes of hand-to-hand combat are combined with brutal firefights that feel more like a 2018 version of the ZX Spectrum’s Way of the Exploding Fist mashed up with Rambo than a credible version of anything remotely believable.

Throw in an acrimonious divorce, a military unit of last resort (branded Overwatch) who carry round a series of nodding US President toys in a protective flight case, and a foreign power’s plane circling overhead stuffed full of communications equipment (actually doing overwatch).

Lauren Cohan shows some grit as fellow agent Alice Kerr, though screenwriter Lea Carpenter lumbers her with a stereotypical distracted-by-family-difficulties backstory that totally undermines any badass tendency the character could have displayed. Meanwhile, John Malkovich paces around a temporary operation HQ in his lucky sneakers calling himself Mother (in an unexpected tribute to The Avengers TV series).

On the plus side, it’s only 94 minutes long. The Blackberry phone could resuscitate the manufacturer’s fortunes if they rushed it to market. And Iko Uwais – who plays Li Noor, the double agent who is holding the keys to so many people’s lives – creates a whole new sub-genre of martial arts action in a sequence which sees him fend off attackers while still handcuffed to a hospital bed. It’s the best scene in the film (and quite near the start if you need an excuse to be able to leave early).

Mile 22 … perhaps still playing at a few local cinemas.

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