Film Review: Mile 22

I have been a Peter Berg fan since he was just an actor, most notably in Fire in the Sky and Cop Land.  I remember seeing his directorial debut in 1998 with Very Bad Things, and I really enjoyed it.  The Rundown is still one of my favorite action comedies of the 2000’s. But, it wasn’t until The Kingdom did I really sit up and take notice of his skills behind the camera.  I saw what it was he was espousing, what it was that he was trying to say, and I loved it. He was not just another action director.  Hell, I am even a fan of his “turkey” films, Hancock and Battleship.  I have not disliked anything he has put his name on.  So, when I read he was making Mile 22, I was all in.

As of writing this, I have now seen the Mile 22.  This is not a Tom Cruise kind of action thriller, though it doesn’t have a shortage of realistic combat, and extremely intense action scenes in it. This film places it more from the heart and straight forward, which I like. This more realistic version of an impossible mission team are tasked with the job of transporting a single man 22 miles to a waiting plane, in the hopes of this man helping them in locating some dangerous cesium that has gone missing.  Of course, nothing ever goes as planned, and all hell breaks loose when they hit the streets, because someone wants this one man either very dead or in their hands.

Mile 22 was an effectively taught thriller, and, I must say, Mark Wahlberg manages to do some of his best acting to date. I’m not kidding. Normally when Mark talks, all I can hear is Andy Samberg’s impression of him, “Say hi to your mother.”

There is some really cool dialogue in this film, and like in life, it is often said very quickly.  But, there is one single line in the film that hands down is my personal favorite bit of dialogue in the film, when John Malkovich said, “Stop monologuing, you bipolar fuck.”

My one real complaint is the bad use of quick cuts in the hand to hand combat scenes.  Everyone tries to emulate Paul Greengrass’ frenetic fight scene editing from the Jason Bourne films, but Berg misses the point of how Greengrass shoots those scenes, and instead makes a jumbled mess of the fight scenes.  Greengrass uses his quick cut editing style to help cover up for his actors not being well trained fighters. But he also uses the cuts to push the action forward. He makes the weapon, fist, or foot the center of the frame, and he allows the character’s action to happen, like a strike, or a kick, before cutting to the next angle. That way there is a flow. But, other directors don’t do that. They have no rhyme or reason in their cuts, and interrupt the action, making it clunky and disjointed. They really should offer a course to action directors, so they can stop messing these scenes up. And like so many other directors who don’t understand the Greengrass technique, Peter Berg falls into the same trap in this film. What makes it worse is that he uses  quick cuts in scenes with an action actor who actually has fighting skills, The Raid’s Iko Uwais, who is an amazing martial artist. But Berg does these clunky quick cuts with him, and interrupts what should have been an amazing fight scene.  Yet, despite this blunder, Berg still manages to deliver an amazing action film.

Now, when I say intense, I am not exaggerating. At moments it was hard to watch.  In fact, there are two powerful scenes in the film, and in one we watch a character desperately trying to maintain their footing during battle, because their feet keep slipping in their own blood.

Yeah.  Mile 22 is gripping, and it doesn’t let up until the shocking ending.

Like I said, Berg needs to play to his strengths, and get away from trying to shoot action like Paul Greengrass.

With that said, because of some of the quick cuts, I give the film only 4 out of 5 potatoes. I’d like to give it 5, but, those quick cuts irritated me.

An intense, gripping thriller with solid performances, though marred by poor editing 8

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