By: Hawk Ripjaw (Five Beers) –
When there are no other options, Overwatch is the only option. Or something.
Overwatch is a secret military operation specializing in covert ops, until they mess up the “covert” part and just kill everybody. They work away from the discretion of the government and have limitless access to weapons and drone strikes. It’s kind of like something Michael Bay might come up with, if Michael Bay took himself completely seriously.
Their on-the-ground leader is James Silva (Mark Whalberg), an apparent savant with an obvious temper issue. He lost his family at an early age and he wears a rubber band on his wrist that he snaps whenever his thoughts get moving too quickly. He is backed up by Alice Kerr (Lauren Cohan), a similarly angry-all-the-time mother fighting for custody of her daughter with her ex-husband, and Sam Snow (Rhonda Rousey), who is literally Rhonda Rousey. Their eye in the sky is Bishop (John Malkovitch), who is code-named “Mother” and wears sneakers with his suit. The rest of the team doesn’t matter very much because they generally end up doing little of actual use besides being targets for insults or bullets.
In a country somewhere around Indonesia, the team finds themselves in an embassy when Li Noor (Iko Uwais) surrenders himself to the embassy and states that he wishes to defect. What’s more, he has the locations of the cesium on a disc he’s holding, and he will unlock it if Overwatch can get him to America. The airstrip is—surprise, surprise—22 miles away. An officer named….Axel, for some reason (Sam Medina), also enters the embassy and demands that Noor be surrendered to him for defecting. Silva basically tells him to fuck himself, and they set off across town with Axel’s men coming out of the woodwork to stop them.
There isn’t a lot of actual good to speak of for Mile 22, but the movie deals in such a brazenly excessive approach to character that it sort of comes around to ironic entertainment. James has some non-specific mental condition, which does that weird Hollywood trope that makes him deeply unlikeable, but intensely smart and incredibly effective. For this movie, James is very focused, but also a fucking crazy asshole that verbally abuses nearly every other character in the movie. These are by far the best moments of the movie, because James is so extremely, outrageously unlikeable as a character that he stampedes straight into caricature. Often, he’ll switch his verbal attack to someone else mid-sentence, randomly quote a speech or piece of literature, and even inexplicably smacks a coworker’s birthday cupcake off the table, shrieking “NO BIRTHDAY CAKE!” Alice isn’t far behind him, with an equally weak grasp on the concept of anger management.
I’ve got a bit of a love-hate relationship with the dialogue in this movie. It’s incredibly clunky, dealing often in exposition, but more importantly features many moments of completely nonsensical lines. These come in many flavors, generally delivered in a manner that suggests that the writers of this movie are really big fans of Aaron Sorkin. But not the Aaron Sorkin that can deliver an epic payload of character and plot development in one quick, biting monologue. Mile 22 is content with just fast-talky Aaron Sorkin without the nuance, so characters just yell nonsense, albeit very quickly. The action is intercut with some sort of post-mission interview with James that features smug, timely references to “collusion” and other wink-wink not-quite-vague-enough references to modern politics that impact absolutely nothing.
The experience of watching Mile 22 can accurately be compared to watching two movies laid over each other while two people yell separate things in each of your ears. This is one of the most maddeningly incoherent movies to be released in recent memory. The dialogue scenes are shot like action scenes, cutting every couple of seconds and breaking the 180 degree rule noticeably often. To boot, these scenes feature some of the worst sound mixing in a mainstream release in some time, where every time the camera cuts back and forth between characters the volume and mix of certain lines of dialogue changes.
The action scenes take that editing mentality and push it further. It feels like the editors threw a bundle of film into the air like 52 Card Pickup and wildly swung a chainsaw around, then proceeded to hire blind people to glue the pieces back together. The editing here is almost unfathomably incoherent, nearing the level of chaos of the latter Taken films. It’s difficult to make sense of the environments and where characters are in an action scene, both in relation to the environment and to each other. Berg constantly cuts to security camera footage, drone footage, or shots of Bishop and his team of hackers so frequently that it’s nearly impossible to keep up with anything.
Actually, really little of the movie makes sense in general, especially once it takes enough time to apparently forget about something that happened earlier. Elements and characters are set up and then never explored again. Alice’s ex-husband has installed an app on her phone that scans her texts and listens to her calls to make sure she isn’t cursing too much, with the punishment apparently being that she can’t see her daughter. This doesn’t really end up affecting anything. There’s also a ridiculous twist towards the end that not only makes little sense, but invalidates a lot of the rest of the movie’s events.
It doesn’t help that Mile 22 doesn’t even have a coherent three-act structure. Around what you might consider the end of the second act, there are a few more quick scenes then the movie just sort of ends without an actual climax or resolution, instead directly setting up an already-confirmed sequel. As Warner Bros learned the hard way with Justice League, if you try to set up a sequel or franchise before your initial movie is even fully formed, it doesn’t bode well.
Mile 22 is a lot of movie. It takes nearly every element of itself, straps a rocket to it, and blasts it into the stratosphere. Machismo bursts from every seam. At least two or three characters have a badass “last stand.” Characters talk like they learned the f-word yesterday. The violence is ridiculously savage. And, best of all, nearly every character is a total asshole. Unfortunately, it seems to fail to realize just how much fun it could be having, because it takes nearly all of this absurdity completely seriously. That opens to door for some commentary on the overreach of these endlessly-funded military organizations and how that affects international relations (Overwatch commits at least a couple of acts of war over the course of the movie), but it’s not interested in exploring that, either.
Disappointingly, Mile 22 fails to really be anything of interest. Even as a throwaway action movie, it doesn’t come together due to the catastrophic editing and completely nonsensical script. As an unintentional comedy, it has its moments but not nearly enough of them. It’s not an inherently bad idea for a story, but by failing to secure its identity and figure out what sort of movie it wanted to be, it shot itself in the foot.
Mile 22 (2018) Movie Drinking Game
*Disclaimer: Prior to seeing this I was informed by our own Will Ashton that I should absolutely not include a specific game for this rule—or at least provide a warning—because of the frequency of the event and subsequent danger of participating. And oh, my sweet, tender, peaceful Baby Jesus does that warning ring true. Remember, these drinking games are intended mainly for satire and we encourage you to drink responsibly.
Take a Drink: every time James snaps his rubber band bracelet
Do a Shot: whenever someone starts to quote literature
Take a Drink: every time someone is an asshole to someone else
Take a Drink: whenever someone refuses to follow orders
Do a Shot: whenever James starts to monologue
Take a Drink: whenever James stares someone down face-to-face