Film review: Spy thriller turns imitation game in Peter Berg’s middling ‘Mile 22’


“Stop monologuing!” yells Mother, the exasperated head of a tactical command unit in Peter Berg’s espionage thriller “Mile 22,” at one of his more loquacious operatives, designated as Child 1.

Imagine a toddler, hyped on soda and chocolate and a Spongebob Squarepants marathon, trapped in the body of a CIA agent who won’t stop describing the most obvious details of his surroundings or the situation at hand. Like any exhausted parent, we just hope he tires himself out mid-stream or at least gets roundhouse-kicked in the mouth.

“Mile 22” is the end point by which the Children, played by Mark Wahlberg, Carlo Alban, Lauren Cohan, and Ronda Rousey, have to escort a rogue cop (Iko Uwais) to a plane on a remote airstrip where he will provide locations to radioactive materials used in making bombs in exchange for asylum in America. Watching over them from a control room is Bishop (John Malcovich), who can send in a drone strike or knock out the electricity in an entire building but cannot prevent Wahlberg’s James Silva from describing the water as his team’s boat springs continual leaks. In a rapid-fire expository montage at the beginning of the film, we learn that as a young boy, Silva was diagnosed as hyperactive and highly intelligent, and his mother suggested snapping a rubber wristband to reboot his self-control.

As an adult, Silva still snaps the wristband, only now it seems to serve as a catalyst for explosive bouts of either browbeating his staff or chest bumping with an adversary. In either case, it distracts him from noticing the more subtle and crucial details of this “war outside the war zone” and wastes valuable time both on screen and in the theater.

Written by Lea Carpenter from her own story with Graham Roland, the show runner behind Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan for Amazon Studios, there are welcome updates on the typical genre film, especially continuing to showcase strong female agents as with July’s “Mission: Impossible — Fallout.”

Cohan and Rousey are a formidable duo, protecting each other in sequences such as a shootout at a Russian safe house and a high-speed chase through the winding streets of a bustling Asian city (the film was shot in Atlanta, Georgia and Bogotá, Colombia). Berg gives them time to shine, but also reveals the sacrifices their jobs demand.

Having a zombie-killing heroine from “The Walking Dead” and a star MMA fighter on the team counterbalances their Chatty Cathy leader, but the real star of the show is The Raid legend Iko Uwais as Li Noor, who may or may not be trustworthy to the Americans or whoever else wants a piece of him. Whether handcuffed to a hospital gurney or sneaking through the darkened hallways of an apartment building, Uwais exhibits a fighting style that is as balletic as it is ruthless, as when he juggles two assassins with a metal hand rail or slices a man’s neck open by grating it across the jagged shards of a shattered car window. He is the “package” the group must deliver in exchange for the information on stolen Curium, and the repeated instances where his hands are cuffed grow a bit ridiculous as he might as well be bound with woven friendship bracelets. As Silva’s team inches closer to the drop-off point, more assassins sent by Axel (Sam Medina) seem intent on receiving death blows in order to prevent Noor from leaving the country.

Aside from the standout performance by Uwais and partnership of Cohan and Rousey, there is little to lift “Mile 22” above an imitation game of tighter sequences in better spy films. After collaborating on 2013’s Lone Survivor and 2016’s Deepwater Horizon and Patriots Day, Berg seems intent on just letting Wahlberg flow instead of reigning him in, and both the pace and tone soon unravel. The henchmen fall like dominos and the unit leader pontificates on the purpose of his job while knocking birthday cake out of Rousey’s hand. That is the essence of the film: a prolonged denial of well-deserved cake after teasing with a few delicious crumbs.

“Mile 22” (2018)

STARRING Mark Wahlberg, Iko Uwais, Lauren Cohen, Ronda Rousey, Carlo Alban