BEIRUT: This summer has ushered the return of the action flick and nothing about that sentence should be taken negatively – for it’s in these action films that classical film production has seen a renaissance.
Set in the volatile arenas of intelligence and global politics, director Peter Berg ushers in a new wave of modern combat cinema in MILE 22, which follows an elite paramilitary team who embark on an urgent mission to transport a foreign intelligence asset from an American Embassy in Southeast Asia to an airfield for extraction, a distance of 22 miles.
This asset possesses highly classified information, which could avert terrorist attacks of catastrophic proportions, and this team must race against time and through a gauntlet in enemy territory, as the city's military, police, and street gangs close in, determined to reclaim the asset.
This film is the fourth collaboration between director Peter Berg and leading man, Mark Wahlberg, and instead of a CGI spectacle, they bring us an intense, smart, and gritty modern action-thriller, which redefines the genre of modern combat cinema.
It's a breathless and often brutal action movie about a small group of Americans navigating a 22-mile gauntlet through a foreign city, as they struggle to elude the forces of a foreign power, which are closing in on them.
Herein lies the subtle genius of the film, it places its protagonists at a disadvantage, corners them, and challenges them at every corner.
MILE 22 is also a film that is not free of consequence.
Every choice each character makes affects the overall outcome which is not always a positive one. In fact, this film is unforgiving to its protagonists and leaves them completely vulnerable.
At its narrative core, the film feels like a game: “Four people have to get 22 miles in 38 minutes and avoid many obstacles along the way.”
The game, however, is full of violence, betrayal, deceit, and all of these things that make for a great story.
Another great aspect of the narrative is its witty and strong characters who, unlike many other action films, are willing to leave men behind in order to save the mission.
Stylistically, with MILE 22, Berg focuses on creating a film that is a part of a new wave of combat cinema, a brutally realistic depiction of fighting and action not reliant on computer-driven effects, which is rather refreshing to see in a cinematic world that is beyond saturated with CGI.
The film is extremely grounded in reality; from the witty no-cares given dialogue to the tactical military behaviors, nothing in this film feels out of place.
The more Hollywood makes action films along these lines, the higher the genre will continue to rise in popularity again.
Ideologically, the film tackles concepts of Big Brother being hacked – the ones we thought were watching us are actually being watched by someone bigger and worse; it also showcases the strength of the American military in the direst of situations.
What’s quite striking here is that all the characters, including the female characters, are fully fleshed out, and equal in strength, intellect, and most importantly, flaws.
In a very short run-time (90 minutes), MILE 22 is able to engage its audience and have them truly empathize and care for the characters on the screen and deliver some great twists along the way.
With the actors clearly doing most of their own stunts, it’s no surprise that the audience would be entirely invested in the action witnessed on screen.
The events of the film are very much a reflection of the chaotic and volatile new political reality our world finds itself in.
It’s quite exciting to see minimalistic action films of this nature making their way onto the silver screens, especially when they’re constantly bombarded by high-flying superheroes and CGI madness.
If use of practical effects instead of computer-driven effects is the future of action films, then let the box offices around the world welcome them with wide open arms.
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