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Movie Review

Imagine the United States as a suburban house for a minute.

In front would be its diplomatic living room, where tea is sipped and treaties are signed. On its metaphorical doors, windows and an electronic pad beeping in the foyer, you'd find its military security, capable of deterring and dealing with most intruders.

But in the backyard you'd find a dog—a Rottweiler, maybe—sporting a spiked collar and chained up for safety, barking, snarling, itching for a fight.

James Silva is that dog.

Silva belongs to a super-secret organization called Overwatch—the "third option" the United States turns to, Silva says, if the first (diplomacy) and the second (military intervention) don't work. It's comprised of two relatively small teams: Silva's tactical unit moves on the ground, investigating threats, securing locations and killing whoever's deemed necessary to eliminate. Overwatch's strategic unit, often set up thousands of miles away, handles the support and coordination. Its eyes in the sky can detect aggressors miles before they reach Silva's squad. And its skilled operators can hack into citywide grids, checking traffic patterns and changing stoplights as necessary.

Overwatch is the U.S.'s ace up its sleeve, reserve nitrous oxide in its engine. America very rarely uses Overwatch. But let's face it: With the world as it is, the country needs every advantage it can get.

Especially in moments like this one.

The latest threat? A few dozen pounds of missing cesium-137, a dirty bomb's best friend and a country's worst enemy. The radioactive isotope is enough to pollute a handful of cities and kill tens of thousands of people.

One man, Li Noor, knows where the cesium is, but he's not talking. Not yet, anyway.

A citizen of a tyrannical (and unnamed) Southeast Asian country, Li turns himself in to the U.S. embassy toting a high-tech disc that can, he says, indicate where the cesium is located. But the disc is locked, and he digitally wired the thing to eat its own information if the U.S. won't meet his demands. Those are, admittedly, simple enough: He wants out of the country. Now.

The catch: the tyrannical Southeast Asian country wants Li, too. It'll push to the brink of war to keep him. Perhaps past that brink.

Diplomacy won't work. America can't intervene militarily. No, it's time for option three: taking Li to a forgotten landing strip 22 miles away, where a U.S. plane will be, theoretically, waiting. Silva and his team will need to resign from the governmental agencies they work for, giving the government a hint of plausible deniability should the operation go south. Everyone knows that the mission is dangerous. Reckless, even. But the costs of failure are just too high.

Time to let the dog off his leash.

Positive Elements

With all the bullets and explosions and mayhem, we don't have time to get to know most of the Overwatch team members very well. And when we do get to know a few—Silva, for instance—what we see isn't particularly winsome. Still, these folks are trying to safeguard lots of lives, and you don't need to be likable to be a hero.

Silva understands that his mission is more important than any one team member. But when one of his compatriots—a mother struggling to find ways to connect with her young daughter despite her demanding, dangerous job—is in serious danger, Silva and Li decide to help her, even though that rescue operation endangers the mission.

Spiritual Content

Silva chats with team member Alice about their morally squishy jobs. "There is no absolution, no washing clean what we do," he says—though he jokingly, cynically acknowledges that if you buy into Jesus, there may be a way. (It's an interesting line, given that Mark Wahlberg, who plays Silva, is a devout Catholic with an admittedly checkered past.) We also hear a passing, sarcastic reference to heaven

Li is called by some a "witch." Silva later asks him if he is one. "No," Li answers. "Are you?"

Sexual Content

Silva barges into a woman's locker room where Alice is getting out of a shower, though she's covered by a towel. Li, as part of a physical/psychological exam, strips down to his underwear: We wind up seeing quite a bit of his physique, because …

Violent Content

… he's attacked by apparent orderlies (actually agents for the Asian country in which the movie takes place). The fight is incredibly violent (parts of it are replayed via security footage). Combatants battle with fists and feet, needles and broken glass and parts of a shattered bed frame, but Li eventually kills both of them—gorily stabbing one in the neck and twisting the metal as the gruesome coup de grâce.

It's one of several such moments in what may be one of the most brutal movies of the year.

In the opening scene, Silva and his squad invade a suburban house filled with Russians—first apprehending them and then, when given the go-ahead, executing them. One, an 18-year-old operative, leaps out of a window from the now-burning home and lands in front of the barrel of Silva's gun. Silva asks if he's being ordered to kill the grotesquely burned man in broad daylight, out in the open: He's told yes, he must kill him. And so he does.

We see several people shot and killed, and often bloodily so. One man is shot several times, and he slips on his own blood before someone walks up to him and puts the final bullet in his forehead. Others are shot in the knees before being killed with another slug to the neck. Explosions claim plenty of casualties, too. We see cars, homes, apartments and businesses blown up via creative means. One Overwatch member, after being seriously wounded in a car explosion, waits for her enemies to come close before arming a pair of grenades, killing them all.

Some assailants attack others with blades or other sharp implements. One man has his cheek sliced open with a shard of glass; his assailant then jams the glass into the palm of his hand, piercing it all the way through. Moreover, Li seems to be something of a martial arts expert, which results in some frenetic, painfully choreographed fight scenes that include snapped legs and broken necks. Someone nearly kills another character with a choke hold.

If the cesium is used as is feared, we hear that the ensuing fatalities could be astronomical. Silva reminds his team what happened to Japanese citizens who suffered from radiation poisoning at Hiroshima and Nagasaki: Their skin, Silva said, would slip off their bodies "like gloves." We see pictures of the devastation of those two cities. News clips likewise showcase some real-world violence.

We learn that Silva's family died in a car crash. In old family video footage, we see a young Silva getting into a couple of fights, as well as hearing school officials talking about the need to curb his violence.

Crude or Profane Language

Silva and others use more than 60 f-words, along with about 15 s-words. Other profanities include "a--hole," "b--ch" and "h---," along with a litany of others (including a harsh slang phrase referencing oral sex). God's name is misused twice, once with "d--n," while Jesus' name is abused once.

Drug and Alcohol Content

None.

Other Negative Elements

Alice is involved in a messy custody dispute with her ex-husband: Phone calls and texts home often descend into heated, profanity-laced accusations and recriminations.

Silva has a host of personality disorders, it would seem, which makes him treat the people around him pretty shabbily.

Conclusion

Mile 22 is dumb, frenetic and oh-so bloody—a feature-length romp through a hurricane of fists and feet and death.

For some, of course, that's exactly what they're looking for in a late-summer movie diversion. Lots of action? Little thought? Mark Wahlberg with a gun? Up-and-coming martial arts actor Iko Uwais with, um, kicks and stuff? Take my money!

But for discerning filmgoers, whether we're talking aesthetic or ethical discernment, Mile 22 is a flat-out fail.

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

Authority Roles

Profanity/Violence

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews

Credits

Rating

Readability Age Range

Author

Cast

Mark Wahlberg as James Silva; Lauren Cohan as Alice Kerr; Iko Uwais as Li Noor; John Malkovich as Bishop; Ronda Rousey as Sam Snow; Carlo Alban as William Douglas III; Natasha Goubskaya as Vera

Director

Peter Berg ( )

Distributor

STX Entertainment

Network

Performance

Record Label

Platform

Publisher

In Theaters

August 17, 2018

On Video

November 13, 2018

Year Published

Awards

Reviewer

Paul Asay

Content Caution

Kids
Teens
Adults
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