The Violence of ‘Mile 22’ Is An Effective Cinematic Diversion

There’s something to be said about an unapologetic fast ride…

In the great spirit of some of the better action films of recent memory, Mile 22 makes no apologies for being a full out, gonzo level adrenaline rush through whatever scenario the characters find themselves in.  While director Peter Berg doesn’t always make it work, this film gets by thanks to an ensemble and a leading man who have the tone of the material down to a tee.

James Silva (Mark Wahlberg) is an operative of the CIA’s most highly-prized and least-understood unit. Aided by a top-secret tactical command team, Silva must retrieve and transport an asset who holds life-threatening information to Mile 22 for extraction before the enemy closes in.

I’ll admit that the chances of anyone mistakenly calling Mile 22 ‘high art’ are pretty darn slim, if not completely non-existent, the team of Peter Berg and Mark Wahlberg make their best approximation of a stripped down balls to the wall action movie that requires us to focus less on the characters or the narrative and more on the ride we’re being taken on.  It’s pulp filled chaos served up on a platter being washed down with a pitcher of beer and a round of tequila chasers and it’s not aspiring for much more than that.

Even when he’s missed the mark, Peter Berg has a solid enough track record that he can rarely be accused of being  boring and even at his most perfunctory he still makes well crafted movies having successful transitioned from a career as character actor, to film director.  The action sequences and editing borrow quite a bit from the likes of the Bourne & Raid franchises which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, even when we can tell that we’re getting a knowingly B+ grade knock off of those films but because Mile 22 does actively own that fact which allows us as an audience to let it slide.  The script from first time screenwriter Lea Carpenter and script doctor Graham Roland is a lean and mean affair leaving only genuine character exposition and development for our leading man, which honestly is the way it’s supposed to be.  It’s not a film where we really need to know back story, it just has to be quickly established that this is a team of unequivocal bad asses ready to do whatever is needed for king and country.

As a CIA operative with no doubt some form of ADD, Wahlberg knowingly goes into the Nicolas Cage playbook on this one and makes his James Silva a motor mouthed know it all who you don’t necessarily like but simply can’t stop looking at either.  It’s either his most unhinged or knowingly gonzo performance and while Wahlberg isn’t always the most memorable of actors, anytime he gets a character with a little bit of edge to it, he gets to stand out.  Lauren Cohen held her own opposite Wahlberg while the likes of Ronda Rousey, Terry Kinney and John Malkovich get more than a little underused on this one. 

The real stand out however does have to be Iko Uwais, veteran of the Raid franchise actually giving a nuanced performance with some layers that turns out to be the lynchpin for the entire narrative.  He doesn’t have to say much but there’s no wasted energy in what he brings to the screen and can more than carry his weight in the movie, even when he doesn’t have to be kicking someone’s ass.

While the end result of Mile 22 is a little too thread bare to end up being supremely memorable, that doesn’t mean that it’s a fun, violent diversion that does more than enough to hold us in the moment as an audience.

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Dave Voigt

David Voigt is a Toronto based writer with a problem and a passion for the moving image and all things cinema. Having moved from production to the critical side of the aisle for well over 10 years now at outlets like Examiner.com, Criticize This, Dork Shelf, to.Night Newspaper he’s been all across his city, the country and the continent in search of all the news and reviews that are fit to print from the world of cinema. Having launched his own home; In The Seats (intheseats.ca) back in 2015 for all the latest and greatest movie reviews and interviews he’s one of the leading voices in the film criticism scene in Toronto, and eventually the world. David is the Entertainment Editor for Addicted Magazine.