Mark Wahlberg reverts to type in Yanks versus Russians spy film Mile 22
So the Hollywood duo, who also made Boston Marathon bomb movie Patriots Day and BP oil rig disaster film Deepwater Horizon, must have realised this is a terrible time to release a macho thriller about steely Russian spies.
Mile 22 is very much a pre-Salisbury attack espionage movie.
Here, no Russian spook strolls under a procession of CCTV cameras or uses a cover story of an all consuming love of Gothic architecture.
The film opens at a Russian safe house in the US that is surrounded by a crack team of off-the-books special forces soldiers called Overwatch.
As the Americans storm the building it’s like watching badly lit, badly shot footage from the team’s body cameras.
This is also the perspective of the team’s boss. Played by John Malkovich with a dodgy buzzcut (there’s nothing gritty about that hairpiece) his job is to sit in a control room packed with monitors and bark sweary orders over the radio.
Weirdly, his team keep referring to him as Mother, a codename that I suspect sounds a lot more manly to American ears.
Perhaps it’s just me, but hearing the grizzled soldiers repeatedly call for Mother gave a certain George Formby vibe to the film’s more perilous moments.
Wahlberg plays a leading role
As Overwatch storm the building Wahlberg (butch codename: Child One) is skulking in the back yard with a machine gun.
When the Ruskies blow up the house and a young spy flies out of a window he springs into action.
“You’re making a big mistake,” says the Russian as Wahlberg stands over him.
“I’ve made a lot,” he fires back before blasting him in the head. The action is a bit hard to follow but this has to count as a strong opening.
The film calms down a little as we get to the main plot. It turns out the real name of Wahlberg’s character is James Silva.
Actor Mark Wahlberg arrives for the Premiere
He’s been divorced three times, has a geniuslevel IQ and keeps snapping an elastic band on his wrist to help him focus.
He’s also got a right mouth on him. “Stop monologuing, you bi-polar ****,” shouts Mother when he launches into one of his trademark rants.
Silva is upset because the “intel” on the raid was wrong.
The house was supposed to contain the chemical weapons the Russians will use to wipe out several US cities, presumably after doing a bit of brass rubbing at local cathedrals.
Thankfully, a double agent (played by martial arts ace Iko Uwais) turns up at the US embassy in a fictional Asian city, claiming to have the plans on a disk.
He says he’ll only give up the password once he has been granted asylum and is safely on a plane to America.
But local police appear to be in cahoots with Russia and the 22-mile drive to the airport involves shoot-outs, car chases and the shocking mano-a-mano violence that earned the film an 18 certificate.
Shaky cameras and rapid editing work are fine for the most part but feel out of place when Uwais steps up to the plate.
If you have seen him in The Raid, you’ll know his fighting skills are best served by long takes and wide angles. Still, there’s enough here to justify the sequel-baiting ending.
If Berg and Wahlberg want to stay true to their brand, the next one will be a knockabout farce.
The dread builds very slowly in The Little Stranger, a handsome period chiller from Room director Lenny Abrahamson.
For a while, the Oscar-nominated Irishman seems to be setting up one of those heritage upstairs-downstairs dramas that play to American fantasies of quaint, classridden, Olde England.
It’s 1948 and we’re gazing upon Hundred’s Hall, a mansion in rural Warwickshire, through the awe-struck eyes of Dr Faraday (Domhnall Gleeson).
It’s the first time the stuffy doctor has entered the gates since he was a child when his now deceased mother worked there as a maid.
Faraday is making a house call after being informed that one of the servants has been taken ill.
Domhnall Gleeson and Ruth Wilson in The Little Stranger
“One of?” snorts Roderick Ayres (Will Poulter), the master of the house and a former RAF pilot who was badly burned in combat. “You’ll see.”
It turns out the ailing Betty (Liv Hill) is now the only servant working in this once proud country estate.
Like all aristocrats the Ayres are suffering under the Labour government’s death taxes. But the crumbling mansion still seems to have the doctor transfixed.
A series of flashbacks will hint at the roots of this obsession.
As a child he stole into the house and on a strange impulse broke a plaster flower off one of the ornate cornices. We’ll learn that this wanton act of class warfare appalled Faraday’s now deceased mother and has haunted him ever since.
Betty is merely suffering from a case of nerves but could there be something more to it?
Before leaving the house, Faraday meets Mrs Ayres (Charlotte Rampling) Roderick’s haughty and slightly sinister mother. He also discovers that Roderick’s hard-working sister Caroline (an excellent Ruth Wilson) is the one who is really running the place.
Slowly, an awkward romance begins to spark between the repressed medic and the free-spirited artistocrat.
As the class divisions begin to blur, strange things happen in the house. Roderick is convinced the house is evil, a girl is left horribly injured at a dinner party and strange symbols start appearing on the walls.
The doctor tries to find rational explanations but as the strange occurrences pile up, his stiff upper lip appears to quiver.
In the finale, Abrahamson resorts to the twists and turns of the standard haunted house movie. But it’s that slow build-up that will stay with you……
Slowly, a romance begins to spark between the stuffy doctor and the free-spirited aristocrat
Anna Kendrick as “Stephanie” and Blake Lively as ‘Emily’
Director Paul Feig is best known for female-led comedies Bridesmaids and Spy with Melissa McCarthy, so he seemed an odd choice for an adaptation of Darcey Bell’s twisty airport novel A Simple Favour.
Was this Feig embracing his dark side with a Gone Girl-style thriller? It turns out this isn’t too much of a departure.
Anna Kendrick milks plenty of laughs out of Stephanie Smothers, a goody-two shoes single mother who meets Blake Lively’s sultry femme fatale Emily as she strides up to the school gates in slow motion.
Their sons have started playing together, so fashion executive Emily invites Stephanie back to her huge house for cocktails. But is her life just too good to be true? That’s just one of the questions posed when Emily goes missing after tasking Stephanie with picking up her son from school.
Feig weaves together the mystery and comedy, before it all falls apart in the final 10 minutes.
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