By Jack Dignan
Originally Published on Salty Popcorn
It’s hard for me not to recommend this. Literally ignore everything I’m about to say about this film, as it’s not all going to be pretty, because I want you to see it. Maybe not in cinemas, or even as soon as it comes out on home release, but eventually, at some point in your lifetime, you need to watch this movie, and it’s for one reason in particular. There’s a scene fairly early on that features Mark Wahlberg, dead seriously, throwing a birthday cake to the floor and screaming “NO BIRTHDAY CAKE FOR YOU” at Ronda Rousey. It’s better than anything I’ve seen all year. If you loved Keanu Reeves screaming “chocolate with sprinkles” in KNOCK, KNOCK, this movie’s for you.
Making a synopsis for this movie is no easy task. Normally, in about the second or third paragraphs of our reviews, we give the readers a brief spoiler-free rundown of what the film’s about, just to put into context everything we’re about to say. But with MILE 22, that’s not so easy. This is a hard film to summarise. Not because it’s so densely plotted or full of game changing spoilers you’re not going to want to know going in, along the lines of BLADE RUNNER 2049 or any of the last seventeen STAR WARS films. It’s because it’s really hard to figure out what this film is actually about.
Characters would just keep talking about things and I’d have no idea what’s going on. They all sounded serious, that’s for sure, but there’s no real stakes or tension or risks brought up until well into the plot. In fact, it’s not until we’re at the fifty minute mark where things start becoming clear, and that’s simply because John Malkovich had the decency to summarise what’s happened so far in two clear, precise sentences. But even then, IMDb’s one sentence summary has provided more information than I took away while watching.
It’s fairly safe to deduce that James Silva (Mark Wahlberg) is our main protagonist. However, that may be a bit of a stretch. Protagonists are supposed to be characters we latch onto. They’re the ones we connect with and form an emotional bond that will, hopefully, result in a satisfying conclusion. We see ourselves in them. We see a reflection of our reality. With James Silva, there’s none of that. He’s a dude who yells really loudly and rather unnecessarily at people who seem decent, and then he goes and does some weird thing where he snaps an elastic band against his wrist if his mind’s moving too fast. I don’t really remember, nor care.
So, likeability in the lead has already been thrown out the window. Great. So what next? Well, I suppose we should try and decipher what situation Marky Mark finds himself in this time. Iko Uwais of RAID fame plays a character named Li Noor. I can’t say for sure who this guy’s meant to be, or what allegiance he falls under, but he finds himself in custody at an important American government site of some description, promising them he’ll transfer the code to stop a nuclear weapon going off if they grant him safe passage to a plane 22 miles away. I think?
It’s all very vague, and a final twist, one most people seemed to call but I guess I was too tired to figure it out at the time, makes things even more confusing. Who is this guy? I have no idea. Why does he require safe passage? It’s something to do with being smuggled out of the country. But what does he require smuggling for? I don’t know, there are bad guys coming after him or something. You don’t know? No. Didn’t you watch the movie? Yeah, but, like… it’s bad. Or maybe not bad-bad, but definitely not good. I have no idea.
The negativity surrounding Peter Berg and Mark Wahlberg’s latest has been remarkably negative, with poor international box office results and many people citing it as one of the worst films of the year. Naturally, this set my expectations low, and honestly, as bombastic, nonsensical and misguided as this film ends up being, I can’t say I was ever bored. There’s very little I can honestly say was genuinely good, yet I can’t bring myself to completely hate it. It’s so ridiculous, so melodramatic and so over the top that… honestly, it’s sort of fun. Just don’t go in treating it as a drama, but instead, a comedy.
Even once you start to get a grip on what’s going on, the woeful editing makes everything happening on screen completely indecipherable. The aforementioned cake scene, which wouldn’t have lasted more than a couple of seconds, features seven different cuts. And just you wait until the action starts getting underway. Some if it’s entertaining, especially the more brutal moments (one in particular which involves shard glass on a broken window), some of it’s bland and loud, but everything involving Uwais is unbelievably cool. Give that man a third RAID movie pronto.
After a number of successful collaborations between Berg and Wahlberg, with the two ploughing through as many true stories of American patriotism as they can, it seems they finally made their first objectively bad movie. The cast is stellar, but the craftsmanship is far from it. I thought we learnt back in 2015 that shaky cam + obscenely fast editing = general irritation from everyone who watches your movie. But nope, 2018’s here to remind us that some people in Hollywood still think this is a good idea. TAKEN 3 fans it’s time to get excited.
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