Welcome to the first action movie of the Trump era — he actually gets a soundbite in the opening-sequence montage in which US Presidents extol the virtues of the American covert services — wherein civil liberties are a distant fantasy and “no man left behind” has been forgotten, yet this is all “a higher form of patriotism.” This is what gritty, “realistic” action movies have come to: no honor, no dignity, just bland cover for sociopathic expediency in the name of duty. Thank god Mile 22 doesn’t actually succeed in selling any of this: it believes itself clever but is nothing of the sort, and its generic yet unintelligible blandness conveys not one moment of excitement or engagement.
In an unnamed Asian city, operatives of — according to the movie’s marketing — “the CIA’s most highly prized and least-understood unit” are chasing down a weapons-grade-cesium macguffin when they acquire a human macguffin, an informer (Iko Uwais) who will tell them where to find the cesium only once he is on US soil. So now James Silva (Mark Wahlberg) and his team must race the informer across town while the baddies who don’t want the turncoat to talk try to stop them.
To call this fourth collaboration between director Peter Berg and star Wahlberg (the previous one was Patriots Day) incoherent would be a kindness. It’s mostly impossible to tell what’s going on in the copious action sequences. (Why would Berg cast a martial artist like Uwais if the director wasn’t going to shoot him in a way that lets us appreciate his brutal athleticism?) But even when we are given information, that never makes any sense, either; the ticking-clock urgency of the final act is discussed but not actually justified. Unless, of course, that a race against time is seen as shortcut to juicing up the thrills when the characters are cardboard and the dialogue is nothing but wiseass quips or — when things are meant to get serious — buzzwords and clichés; something about “hearts and minds”?
If Mile 22 hoped to educate us on this misunderstood CIA unit, we’re none the wiser by the end of the movie. (Hell, we never even learn what the title means.) Except that they’re all very, very angry, and shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near guns.
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