Main cast: Mark Wahlberg (James Silva), Iko Uwais (Li Noor), John Malkovich (James Bishop), Lauren Cohan (Alice Kerr), Ronda Rousey (Sam Snow), Nikolai Nikolaeff (Alexander), Carlo Alban (William Douglas III), Terry Kinney (Johnny Porter), Poorna Jagannathan (Ambassador Dorothy Brady), and Sam Medina (Axel)
Director: Peter Berg
Watching Mile 22 in the Malaysian cinema is a surreal experience. All movies go pass the censors, if you don’t know, even for a movie like this one that is classified as only for people over eighteen. What the censors did to this movie is that they clumsily bleep out bad words such as “son of a bitch”, “bastard”, and “asshole”, but for some reason they let the word “fuck” pass. Hence, this movie has plenty of F bombs, while other bad words are bleeped out (you can easily make out what these words are, as the bleeping is incomplete and some syllable came through anyway, or you can tell from the movement of the characters’ lips). “Motherfucker” – bleep – but Mark Wahlberg’s James Silva going “Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! Fu-uuuu-ck!” is okay. Maybe they misheard “fuck” as “fun”? Ladies and gentlemen, that’s Malaysia for you.
Oh yes, this one. Meet Overwatch. No, not that game – this Overwatch is a covert secret ops agency of the US that does naughty things that the government will disavow when caught. Leading the whole thing is James Bishop, also known as Mother. Other people in the management go by code names like Rook, Pawn, Queen, et cetera. The ones actually out there doing the dirty work are known as Daughters – Mother and Daughters, aren’t they cute? – and the Daughters are led by James Silva.
Silva is said to have some kind of mental disorder that makes him very brilliant and prone to temper tantrums but at the same time devoid of normal emotions. I think the movie is going for some kind of brilliant autism or something, but what happens instead is… well, think of CSI: Miami‘s David Caruso. Now, take his self-righteousness and inflate it by twenty times or more, strip the result of any human empathy or likability, and reduce his capability by half, and that’s James Silva. This is a complete, huge jerk to work with – he berates his underlings who narrowly escaped death after a savage beating for making him waste time coming back for them. Still, I wonder whether this is a misfire or by design, as Silva being what is actually makes the savage denouement at the very end far more satisfying to watch, heh.
Oh yes, the plot. Overwatch is on the lookout for six missing cesium shipments, which will be used to create weapons of mass destruction, and it is especially crucial that these people succeed because it’s their own cock-up that led to these shipments going missing. The locations are in a disc, but it is set to self-destruct in eight hours unless a code is keyed in. Indonesian cop Li Noor claims to know the code, but he will only tell if Overwatch can arrange to give him asylum in the US. Meanwhile, the Indonesian State Intelligence Agency sends their guy Axel to retrieve Li Noor back by any means necessary. Of course, the Russians are involved too, and Silva and his team will have their hands full trying to keep Li Noor safe as they make that 22 miles to the airport, where a plane will only wait for ten minutes after landing to pick up Li Noor before flying out again. The whole thing feels unnecessarily convoluted and complicated, but I suppose it’s all necessary to set up a race against time scenario.
It’s quite hilarious how Silva is build up to this autistic savant, but that character is actually all bark and no bite. Not once does he stop to wonder about the obvious: Axel’s men are always waiting to ambush them at every last minute rerouting or plan B, which obviously means that the communication line between Mother and the Daughters has been hacked into by the bad guys. In fact, Silva mentions that he actually never considers this. In fact, the bulk of the doing is carried out by his underlings or Li Noor. It is Li Noor, in fact, who saves Alice when Silva is supposed to be leading the Indonesian cop around – Silva only gets to berate her for delaying the mission by selfishly getting cornered by the bad guys and putting up resistance in a manner worthy of a standing ovation. Our so-called great team leader is a dud, and it doesn’t help that every word from his mouth is a painfully aggravating monologue full of words that don’t really say anything.
The MVPs here are Iko Uwais and Lauren Cohan. Mr Iko is like Jet Li in his prime – he launches gleefully into dizzying, acrobatic kicks and punches in a manner that is exhilarating to watch, and oh yes, there is nothing more joyous to watch that a cute guy in only tighter boxer-briefs delivering carnage and death to all that come for him. That scene of him pulling a man’s head through a car window glass and then forcing that man’s neck right and left along the glass shards for good measure – oh, that is so hot, I need a cigarette after watching that. Unfortunately, this movie takes the oh-so-American approach to these scenes: too often, the fight scenes are either filmed in dark lighting or are marred by so many quick edits that it is hard to figure out what is happening on screen. There is enough to turn Iko Uwais into a hot killing machine, but these scenes could be filmed so much better. Meanwhile, Lauren Cohan’s Alice is the only Daughter other than Silva to get any kind of character development, but she is a strong character in her own right – here is a woman who not only kicks rear ends as best as she could when confronted with men twice her size, she is also doing a solid job staying professional despite having serious family issues back home. The only reason I sort of like Silva is that, underneath all his sociopathic bluster, he actually has a genuine soft spot for Alice, his Sunday friend with benefits, and that sort of humanizes him a little.
At any rate, Mile 22 is a movie that is more about some good moments (mostly involving Li Noor or Alice kicking rear ends). It is on the whole a choppy movie with many questions left unanswered – they are probably saving the answers for a sequel, as this movie is set up to be the first in a series – and the so-called brilliant Silva is nowhere near what he is built up to be. If there is a reason to watch this movie, it’s mostly for Iko Uwais, but why pay for the movie ticket when it’s cheaper to just wait for it to hit the usual streaming channels?