“People sleep peacefully in their beds at night only because brought men stand ready to do violence on their behalf”. A George Orwell quote spoken by Mark Wahlberg in the beginning of his new film, Mile 22 has pretty much set the standard for director Peter Berg’s career.
Peter Berg was an actor for ten years before he made the jump to directing in the late 90’s. He quickly made a name for himself with strong character-based drama and action from The Kingdom, Lone Survivor, The Rundown, Very Bad Things, and even the TV show he created Friday Night Lights. What always impresses me about a Peter Berg film is his instincts for character in the moment and his instincts on action and tempo.
Mile 22 tells the story of an elite American intelligence officer, played by Mark Wahlberg, aided by a top-secret tactical command unit, lead by John Malkovich, trying to smuggle a mysterious police officer with sensitive information out of the country.
With Mile 22, Berg perfects what he started within those climactic gunfights in The Kingdom. He shoots tight on his actors, handheld, very much feeling claustrophobic at times. But what makes this work is Berg keeps the focus on his actors during these fights, you’re with them, feeling the hits, the conflict. And Berg’s eye for tempo ratchets the tension in the film start to finish.
Berg’s authenticity in his films is legendary, he was embedded with SEAL team 5 for 6 months prepping for Lone Survivor, was robbed at knifepoint in the Amazon doing research for The Rundown. And his need for realism just makes Mile 22 all the greater because it’s just these actors in these sequences and when you know it’s them, it engages you even further, especially with the violence. Mile 22 is hands down the most violent film Peter Berg has done. At some point, everyone feels it and Berg isn’t shy with showing it.
But Berg keeps the violence apart of the story, it’s never in your face or for the sake of it. In fact, Berg actually uses violence for some particularly powerful character moments with Lauren Cohan.
With any good action movie, it’s the cast that makes it and Berg’s instincts haven’t failed him yet. Lone Survivor, Deep Water Horizon, Patriot’s Day, Mile 22, the pilot episode of Mark Wahlberg’s produced show, Baller’s, Berg know how to work with Wahlberg. To the point that he directed Wahlberg in some of the best acting Wahlberg has every done in Deep Water Horizon. And Wahlberg delivers again with a role he was born to play as the field leader of the CIA task force, Overwatch, James Silva.
Silva is gifted with high intelligence, ADHD, and extreme intolerance for almost every person outside of his team. It’s an extreme dialogue and behavior heavy role that Wahlberg knocks out of the park beautifully. And Wahlberg doesn’t shy away from the action and easily holds his own even when he’s acting against future action legend, Iko Uwais. Don’t think this is the same kind of role you’ve seen Wahlberg in before. Yes, it’s similar but the fact that Silva has genuine mental issues helps elevate this role to something truly unique in the catalog of roles Mark Wahlberg has.
Despite a relatively short career so far, Uwais impressively held his own against Mark Wahlberg going full on. And when it comes to action, Uwais, Berg, and the stunt team truly outdid themselves with some unique hand to hand and gunfights that truly showed how gifted an athlete Uwais is. Mile 22 truly shows that Uwais is legitimately an actor that’s here to make a name for himself.
This cast has some heavy credibility to start, but almost all of the notoriety has to go to Lauren Cohan. Cohan plays one Alice Kerr, one of the Overwatch field team members. And Cohan has the unique position of being a woman in the middle of a pack of alpha dogs. And she gave it an incredible dimension with some meaningful weight and some truly powerful action scenes. Cohan truly demonstrated that her career leaving behind The Walking Dead will be a long one.
Before the release of Mile 22, Wahlberg and Berg announced they were developing Mile 22 into a trilogy. As Mile 22 goes in terms of set-ups, they nailed it. This is a story that not only could easily be expanded on, like the ending of Mile 22 demonstrates, it needs to be expanded on.
Mile 22 is easily worth 5 out of 5 stars and is hands down the best action film of the year. This is the beginning of a terrific story, brought out through damn good directing and an even better cast.