This is Mile 22 — Mile 20-pew — Mile pew pew pew — pew pew pew pew pew —
Sorry. In the newest team-up of the Bergs, director Peter and actor Mark Wahl–, everything is again in decline. Aside from the mission’s condition and the characters’ well-being, also heading south are our care for the former two and our ability to comprehend what’s shown. Take a different trip or revisit past collaborations, if you can, unless the itinerary you’re seeking is precisely “Blind Jingoism Rollercoaster, Only Boardable When Angry AF.”
Rage instead of sense also seems to be a prerequisite to be part of Overwatch, a group of operatives whose leader James Bishop (a haired John Malkovich) said dabble in “a higher form of patriotism” and, as a result, are equipped to execute the darkest of black ops. It’s unclear how the government perceives hot heads as angels (also their codename) of national security. Pecking order-wise, right below Bishop is another James (Wahlberg), aka Overwatch’s golden member with Silva as his last name. How did he establish himself as the alpha? The film chalks it up to an early display of giftedness, but the likelier truth is the tendency to subject whomever he meets to a tirade at, by default, 50x speed. It’s characterized as a mental disorder.
Still, “fight fire with fire” as the saying goes, and so the rest of the team are equally cranky: Alice Kerr (Lauren Cohan) stabs at her phone’s screen to write a text (her husband is a jerk though); Sam Snow (Ronda Rousey) speaks in clapbacks; William Douglas III (Carlo Alban) never alters his somber look at rest or in action. As if the one-paper thickness is not punishing enough, the characters are imbued just one mood in their entire build.
While everyone’s day at the U.S. Embassy in the fictional Asian country of Indocarr goes on as normal, obviously choleric, an off-duty, “low-level” cop named Li Noor (Iko Uwais) purposefully breaches the grounds, from his mouth a request for asylum and in his hand an encrypted hard drive with the location of the missing supply of radioactive Caesium-139 Overwatch is looking for. Noor then becomes a HVT that Silva and his group must protect from threats for 22 miles to a runway where a plane awaits.
Even before any of the remarkable Pencak Silat moves seen in both Raids show up — the best are dealt and countered when Li is cuffed to a gurney and finds out his tending physicians are actually hitmen — Uwais makes pie-easy work out of generating the most electricity in the cast (or any other department, really). With eyes of an attentive predator, chilled elocution and, of course, jaw-dropping martial artistry (Uwais also choreographed the stunts), it’s totally understandable if one, in Hollywood or elsewhere, finds themselves brimming with envy. Maybe just be serene, the benefits of that are a healthier state of mind and a path to earn “film’s MVP” badge! Uwais’ Li has them, even if he can’t always display them in full due to the uber-berserk, Berg-gone-Bay editing and thus clambering photography. Such bias, then, that there is a dedicated, in-your-face shot every time Wahlberg snaps his bracelet to de-stress.
In many ways, all of them rancid, Mile 22 is the perfect counterprogramming to Crazy Rich Asians. Whereas the Jon M. Chu’s film opens up avenues, Peter Berg reduces his — with the help of writer Lea Carpenter — into shallower, perfect-for-business ideas such as “cinema’s next great deathmatch” (Uwais vs. Wahlberg), “more stories soon” (sequel already written; TV and VR projects green-lit) and “today’s reactionary talking points” (paranoia and umbrage are great motivators; danger is always them and never us). Such a timely touch, the latter, but exactly what we need less of. Adieu, then, the neat, Eagle Eye-esque’s idea of obsession with safekeeping being more of a blindfold evoked in those interruptive bits of Silva preaching The Art of (Contemporary) War ™? If so, what a waste of the CIA connections whom Wahlberg said Carpenter knows personally, as measures have been taken to redact them and their workings into pure noise.