This Is a Movie Review: With ‘Mile 22,’ Mark Wahlberg and Peter Berg Have Teamed Up for Their Most

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CREDIT: STXfilms

This review was originally posted on News Cult in August 2018.

Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Iko Uwais, Lauren Cohan, Ronda Rousey, John Malkovich

Director: Peter Berg

Running Time: 94 Minutes

Rating: R for A Litany of F-Bombs and Actual Bombs

Release Date: August 17, 2018

Mile 22 is the fourth collaboration between Mark Wahlberg and director Peter Berg, and by far their worst. Their previous team-ups (Lone Survivor, Deepwater Horizon, and Patriots Day) covered real-life tragedies and disasters with unflinching intensity. They were at times be difficult to watch, but Berg managed to remain respectful by keeping his focus fixed. Mile 22 has a similar shaky-cam, right-next-to-the-action approach. It isn’t based on a true story, but the verite style seems to suggest that it could be true. That forces Berg to construct a fictional portrait of chaos, which, devoid of any necessary real-life moments to honor, ends up just a mess.

Wahlberg is the ostensible protagonist as James Silva, the ground leader of an elite and secretive paramilitary unit within the CIA. His team is the sort that the government turns to when they have exhausted all other options and do not want the public to know what they are up to. They are tasked with transporting intelligence asset Li Noor (Iko Uwais) 22 miles to an extraction point, where he has promised he will reveal information that will prevent a bomb detonation. Uwais is best known as the star of The Raid and its sequel, and Mile 22 ends up as an excuse for him to show off his action skills in the midst of a convoluted narrative. Berg proves adept at capturing Iwais’ brand of fight choreography, but everything else is exhausting, which is shocking considering that Berg’s action filmmaking is usually reliable. But here he is so undisciplined, with numbing footage of endless gunfire and an editing style that presents way too much information for a human brain to possibly process.

The whole thing is barely an hour and a half, but it feels like forever, but then it leads to a climax that makes it feel 20 minutes too short. There is a major reveal that is far from adequately resolved, which is to say, it is not resolved at all. It is the sort of twist that makes you want to say to the screenwriter, “Don’t the characters want to take care of that?” And the apparent response is, “Oh well, they ran out of time.” Just about the entire film is that careless, but I will grant that it at least features Iwais saying to Wahlberg, “Say hello to your mother for me.”

Mile 22 is Recommended If You Like: Iko Uwais Combat, Incessant Gunfire, Hyperactive Editing, Frequent Explosions

Grade: 2 out of 5 Wristbands

This Is a Movie Review: Patriots Day

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This review was originally published on News Cult in December 2016.

Starring: Mark Wahlberg, John Goodman, Kevin Bacon, J.K. Simmons, Michelle Monaghan

Director: Peter Berg

Running Time: 133 Minutes

Rating: R for a Graphic Recreation and the Explicit Language Reacting to It

Release Date: December 21, 2016 (Limited)/Expands Nationwide January 13, 2017

Films about real-life terrorist attacks are tough beasts. Even with the best of intentions, the results can be sensationalistic. And even if the end product is as respectful as possible, survivors and witnesses may be too traumatized to relive that day in any capacity, which begs the question: is it even worth it? It is a conundrum whose scope goes beyond any simple answer, but it is important to keep in mind.

Then on pure storytelling terms, there is the matter of where to even place the focus. Patriots Day, which retells the story of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing and the subsequent capture of its perpetrators, chooses to spread its character reach far and wide, which works surprisingly well. The implications and motivations behind a terrorist act can be too massive to capture completely, but this particular event actually lends itself well to the real-life recreations that director Peter Berg (Lone SurvivorDeepwater Horizon) has recently excelled at.

A frequently reiterated theme is that Bostonians have each others’ backs, and that is borne out through how interlinked the main characters are to each other. That connection is heightened through crisis, but the glue is already there. Even the terrorists themselves (chillingly and matter-of-factly played by Themo Melikidze and Alex Wolff), classmates and neighbors to many, are part of the Boston milieu.

Following the bombing, Patriots Day turns into a chase movie, with the urgency of the best of that genre already baked in. Armed forces, intelligence agencies, and civilians join together for an inspiring display of coordinated decision-making and action. The actors playing them summon their best reserves of basic decency to pull it off. The entire cinematic effort makes for a mix of emotions, often uncomfortable, frequently awe-inspiring, never without honor, even through the cathartic bursts of laughter.

Patriots Day is Recommended If You LikeLone SurvivorWorld Trade Center, Credits Scenes with the Real-Life People Portrayed in the Movie

Grade: 4 out of 5 Acts of Bravery