[Screen It]

"MILE 22"
(2018) (Mark Wahlberg, Lauren Cohan) (R)


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QUICK TAKE:
Action: An elite team of CIA ops tries to get a foreign defector out of his country in exchange for him giving up the location of missing cesium that's going to be used in a terrorist attack.
PLOT:
James Silva (MARK WAHLBERG) is the leader of an elite paramilitary team that operates under the auspices of the CIA. Sixteen months after taking out a Russian safe house where the order from their "eyes in the sky" commander, Bishop (JOHN MALKOVICH), went from capture to kill, the small unit finds itself in Indocarr City in Southeast Asia. It seems amounts of cesium have been stolen and positioned at various points around the world to be used by terrorists.

The team appears to catch a break when one of that country's elite tactical agents, Li Noor (IKO UWAIS), surrenders at the U.S. embassy. In his possession is a computer hard drive with the location of that cesium, but it's encrypted and on a self-destruct timer. If given asylum and flown out of the country, he'll give the code to stop and unlock that.

With just a small operating window where a CIA plane can land and take off with him, James and his team -- Alice Kerr (LAUREN COHAN), Sam Snow (RONDA ROUSEY) and William "Dougie" Douglas III (CARLO ALBAN) -- try to get Li from the embassy to the extraction point. But they must make their way through the city and local forces that don't want to let them succeed, no matter the collateral damage that might occur.

OUR TAKE: 3 out of 10
Unless I was also the director, I don't think I'd ever want to edit someone else's film. Sure, it's easier nowadays that everything's digital and one can make changes with the click of a mouse and quickly see what works and what doesn't. But you still have to go through hundreds of hours of footage.

While the likes of Clint Eastwood somehow manage to make do with as few takes as possible, you'd sometimes run into those who operate like the late Stanley Kubrick who was notorious for shooting the same scene fifty, sixty and many times more. Meaning you'd have to compare all of those to get the right one before moving on to the next scene and its plethora of takes.

Then there are the directors who want rapid-fire editing, thinking it somehow will make things more exciting. While it's possible that can be the outcome, more often than not it's covering for any number of issues and that's certainly the case with the hard-hitting and highly edited "Mile 22." If not for my need to count the bad words and note all of the violence on display, I would have tried to count the edits in any given minute of the hour and a half long movie.

And I'm not just talking the action scenes where one would expect them. No, even the "talky" moments are cut rapid-fire style, with some likely numbering in the twenty to thirty (and possibly more) cuts per minute. Movies are supposed to make viewers feel something, but all of that editing, coupled with the often shaky footage, muddled plot, lapses in logic, and unlikable characters is likely to leave viewers with a headache rather than anything else.

All of which is both surprising and disappointing since the previous pairings of director Peter Berg and star Mark Wahlberg -- those being the based on true stories trifecta of "Lone Survivor," "Patriots Day" and "Deepwater Horizon" -- have emotionally connected with me on levels I had not expected. Not so here in their first purely fictional outing together.

In the shadow of the exciting and engaging "Mission: Impossible - Fallout," this looks and feels even more like a complete mess and misfire. Like the far better Cruise flick, this one centers on government special ops trying to save the day, this time from the possible terrorist use of missing cesium.

There's apparently just one man who knows where that is, and that's Li Noor (Iko Uwais), an elite tactical agent of the country of Indocarr (why screenwriter Lea Carpenter or anyone else didn't use a real place rather than a fictional one is beyond me). If offered asylum in the U.S., he'll reveal a code to stop a computer hard drive -- where the location data is stored -- from self-destructing, you know, sort of like occurs before the start of every mission in the "M:I" universe.

Accordingly, Wahlberg's character and the rest of his team must get their package across the made-up city to an extraction point. Not surprisingly, various one-dimensional bad guys regularly pop-up to serve as obstacles and kicking off points for the action.

Uwais gets what amounts to the best scene (where he must fend off assassins while cuffed to a hospital sort of bed), but Berg and editors Colby Parker Jr. and Melissa Lawson Cheung cut the footage so many times I'm shocked the film didn't bleed out before the human victims do. Like the rest of the action, much of what's shown is shot and edited so poorly that the continuity of the moments -- and thus the related excitement -- is mostly squandered.

It also doesn't help that there isn't a likable character among the "good guys." Granted, Carlo Alban and MMA fighter turned WWE wrestler turned actress Ronda Rousey aren't given anything to do with theirs, so they're given something of a pass. But Lauren Cohen's brief domestic issues back home don't otherwise do her any favors, and John Malkovich is wasted as the remotely located "eyes in the sky" commander who barks out commands and bad dialogue from afar.

And Wahlberg plays such a misanthrope -- supposedly a genius of some sort as briefly described early on in a quick montage of his past -- with bad line readings that you hope the story might switch gears, abandon all of them, and focus instead on Uwais' far more interesting character. Instead, we get the additional joy of watching Marky Mark doing some sort of post-mortem interview about what happened -- all of which does nothing for the film. That is, beyond make you wish it had been based on a true story and thus somehow, just maybe, Wahlberg and Berg would make it work and emotionally connect with the viewer.

Bad just about any way you cut it -- but, please, no more edits -- "Mile 22" feels like driving over thousands of jarring bumps and potholes during the journey that I have no intention of ever taking again. Aside from a few decent (but very brief) action moments scattered amongst the rest of the forgettable and headache-inducing flotsam, you'll want to exit before you even reach mile one. This one rates as a 3 out of 10.




Reviewed August 15, 2018 / Posted August 17, 2018


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