Peter Berg was on his way to become qualified as a good director. Ever since Lone Survivor, he’s made nothing but great films. Then Mile 22 came around; the not-so-surprising flop if you’d seen the trailer, but very surprising flop if you’d seen the director’s previous films. It was panned by critics and audiences alike, for multiple reasons, but somehow there was still a part of me aching to watch the film. Was it to enjoy its badness, or was it because I refused to accept the fact that it’s a bad film, even though it has Berg directing and The Raid star Iko Uwais acting in it? I don’t know, but what I do know, is that the film is exactly what people make it out to be: bad.
One of the biggest critiques this film got was concerning the editing, which is, now that I’ve seen the film, more than deserved. It was incredibly choppy. The conversations are edited way too rapidly with no real flow to it. Slight movements are edited out to give the film a more documentary-like feel, but it just didn’t work at all and made the film feel very ridged. There’s a scene where Mark gets frustrated and throws a birthday cake to the ground, which causes the plate to shatter. That simple action is shown to us from about six angles, for no apparent reason. If this were a constructivist Russian propaganda film from the 1920’s, then I’d understand this decision, but I have a slight feeling that this isn’t what Berg was going for. The action scenes were even done worse than the conversational ones because in those I was struggling to understand what was going on and where the characters were located. Even with the number of shots they throw at us, it feels like they just lost some shots in the editing process, because during action scenes characters go from laying on the ground to suddenly striking another punch within microseconds and without us having seen them getting up again. There were plenty of shots that were redundant, but seemingly a few left out for whatever reason. Mind you, the shots left out that I’m talking about here are not the same ones left out during the non-action bits. There I can understand its intent, during the action scenes, however, I can’t. The shots cut out here contain crucial movements, while in the conversational ones, they’re quite mundane and cut out in function of the pace, but more on that later. The shaking camera also doesn’t make these scenes a whole lot easier to follow, though it would’ve been fine if it was solely that, but unfortunately it wasn’t. It baffles me that this film’s edited by the same guy who did Lone Survivor and Patriots Day; two films I praised for the exact thing I’m criticizing Mile 22 for. It even fails at cross-editing, and it tries to do so way too often. The editor was really bad at making clear what was taking place simultaneously and what wasn’t, which often left me confused. At times I thought two scenes interwoven with each other were taking place at the same time, to only have that thought be disrupted by a character from one of those two scenes suddenly appearing in the other. It’s just a confusing mess.
As mentioned before, I thought that the slight movements were cut out in order for the film in service of the pace. But to my surprise, this isn’t really the case, as the film really has no clue how to pace itself well. It constantly has this fast tempo, due which there’s never really any build up to anything and nothing ever had a lasting impact. Everything just falls flat and it makes the film more boring than it already was, and as established previously, the cut out movements give the film a very rigid feel rather than a smooth one good editing is supposed to deliver.
Even the sound editing was bad. It often felt like the voiceover brought by John Malkovich existed out of multiple takes combined together badly, making it sound very choppy. The sound effects for guns especially were really inconsistent as they constantly changed between having a lot of power and feeling rather pointless. It’s quite uneven and makes for a very unpleasant experience.
Outside of the editing, Mile 22 is still not a great film. For starters, it takes way too long to get the story going. The actual meat of the story only starts about forty minutes into the film. Forty minutes into a film that barely lasts an hour and a half, is quite a lot of time lost. That’s about 44% of the films run time spent on set up, where not a lot is actually set up or developed. It’s just a bunch of dumb exposition that’s thrown at us and we’re introduced to these paper-thin characters of whom the backstory isn’t all that original or engaging, which you might come to expect after nearly half of the film has finished, especially since you’re now supposed to care for them in the upcoming badly handled action sequences, that’ll be accompanied with a painfully generic score. The only development we get for these characters is given in the opening credits sequence or via one or two expositional lines at the start of the film. They never try to build on top of what we’re given at the start; they just constantly remind us of what’s been said before or push certain character traits into your face.
The portrayal of these characters wasn’t a whole lot different from the way they were written either. Pretty much everyone was bad, emotionless, and empty. Rhonda Rousey tried her best, but she ended up being the worst of the bunch, often coming across as cringy rather than badass. Marky Mark is far from convincing as a super smart dude and his character’s a hollow interpretation of Ben Affleck’s one in The Accountant. Here he’s just an asshole, and that isn’t particularly fun to watch. He frequently starts monologuing, for not really any reason whatsoever, but it could end up being a bit funny when Mark is attempting to come across as intelligent with his fast line delivery and fails doing so. Lauren Cohen’s in the film as well and she plays a mother, which I only know because they repeat it over and over again, and that’s also all there is to her; she’s a mother. They never add anything to that, or actually, attempt to create a decent character. We’re supposed to root for her because she has a daughter she has to get home to, but we never get to know more about who she is and what her personality is like. There’s also a fourth member to the team, but if you thought that the previous three characters didn’t have any substance, you’ll be blown away by the small amount he has; it’s non-existent. I just barely recall him being there and I can’t imagine what he looked like or what he was called. Finally, there’s also Iko Uwais whose martial arts skills were greatly underused but so were his acting capabilities. The man’s shown in the two Raid films that he’s capable of both kicking ass and delivering a stellar performance, though unfortunately, he came across equally as bored as I was watching the film. There’s just no character to care for which, on top of the lack of any build up, makes the film really boring and dull.
Outside of the main team, there’s another “vital” character played by John Malkovich, who’s certainly only there for the paycheck. All he ever gets to do is command a bunch of computer geeks and say a few lines that are meant to have some deeper meaning but come across as superficial and nonsensical. The dialogue as a whole wasn’t very good. It felt like someone who just learned to swear and who recently had their first course in philosophy wrote it. There are multiple uses of the word “fuck”, reappearing in nearly every line, making serious scenes fall flat due to the language being used so frequently that it felt unrealistic, and there were plenty of inconsistent moral messages inserted in the film, making it hard to pinpoint what statement it exactly wanted to make. The screenwriter also didn’t have any sense of humor, because either his jokes were reliant on the cursing, or they were just plainly inappropriate for the moment in the film. Not that they would’ve been funny outside those moments, but they certainly didn’t work in their favor.
Also, who would have thought that in a dumb action film, there’d be a lot of dumb moments? Well, I certainly did. For example, there’s a moment in the film where the characters are in an apartment complex together with the villains, so our good pal John Malkovich turns out the lights together with his hacker crew. They turn out the lights and… nothing really changes except for the color scheme. Every shot’s still brightly lit, now just with green light instead of yellow. I don’t get why it was incorporated into the film, because it literally adds nothing. It doesn’t raise the stakes, doesn’t give them a tactical advantage, doesn’t make the scene look visually a bit cooler; it just changes the lights from yellow to green and that’s supposed to represent a blackout in an apartment complex? I don’t get it; though there’s a lot I don’t get in this film, like the story itself. Apparently, the writers were fully aware of how dysfunctional the story was that they were writing because they added in scenes with Marky Mark explaining the plot to us, even pointing out the most obvious bits, as if we’re as dumb as the story that’s being told. I wouldn’t be surprised if those scenes were part of the reshoots, because it certainly felt like that.
I did, however, kind of like the ending. It was a bit dumb, you’re left with a bunch of unanswered questions, and the reveal of the villain’s motivations was quite lackluster but I appreciate how the film did something different than I was expecting and actually dared to do something with consequence. It’s macabre and not too optimistic, which I didn’t expect from a standard summer blockbuster, so I must commend some credit to the guy responsible for that. Still, it wasn’t any good, but it was surprising.
What an unfortunate disaster Mile 22 is. It had all the ingredients to be a decent summer blockbuster – an incredible martial artist, a seemingly competent director, and Mark Wahlberg who was able to deliver solid performances in the previous three films he’s made with that director – but instead we got a shallow, badly written and badly acted film with quite awful editing. I really can’t stress enough how bad the editing was in this film; it’s abysmal. Some of the worst I’ve ever seen, and I recommend that you do not. So no, do not check out this film, go re-watch Mission Impossible Fallout or something, because that’s a film that people put some effort in, unlike in this one.
“He’s not a double agent, he’s a triple agent”