Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Lauren Cohan, Iko Uwais, Ronda Rousey, John Malkovich
Director: Peter Berg
Genre: Action, Thriller
Synopsis: An elite American intelligence officer, aided by a top-secret tactical command unit, tries to smuggle a mysterious police officer with sensitive information out of the country.
Release Date: August 30th, 2018
Official Trailer 2 - Redband
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.
While the Ground Branch team risks life and limb in Southeast Asia, they are aided from thousands of miles away by a tactical command group known as Overwatch, led by a man known only as Bishop, played by two-time Academy Award® nominee John Malkovich. Overwatch is a high-tech team who wield keystrokes, hacking skills, and intercepted information as easily as any physical weapon. They offer real-time communication with and monitoring of the Ground Branch agents involved in the operation, as well as troubleshooting and navigation to help keep them alive, in motion and on mission, as the action unfolds and the city quickly becomes a battleground.
Mile 22 explores the complicated dynamic between Mark Wahlberg (the Transformers film franchise, Lone Survivor, Deepwater Horizon) and Lauren Cohan (television's The Walking Dead, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice), as veteran members of the CIA's most highly prized and most closely-guarded secret operatives. They've worked together for years, which allows them to have an insight into each other, as well as the ability to keep each other mission-focused, despite external distractions.
Wahlberg portrays James "Jimmy" Silva, the brilliant senior officer and leader of this small but lethal group. He is methodical, decisive, and hyper-focused. When it comes to work, the only thing that matters is the mission. He spends his life solving puzzles, putting pieces together, trying to see the big picture; at work, it's pieces of highly sensitive intelligence, while his "relaxation" at home is solving difficult jigsaw puzzles. His brain is like a shark, always moving, always working, and seemingly incapable of slowing down; he is incapable of separating himself from his work. He feels a tremendous amount of responsibility to protect his country and his team, who know him to be direct, gruff, unpredictable, sarcastic, and all business.
Cohan is Alice Kerr, an equally capable operative and Silva's lieutenant who, unlike Silva, must contend with the distractions from the outside world " specifically, being a divorced mother and navigating the difficult process of coparenting with her combative ex-husband (played by director Peter Berg in a brief cameo). She wrestles with the guilt of having to lie to her family and not being able to be there for milestones in her daughter's life, leaving the new stepmom figure to fulfill the mommy role while Alice is protecting the very world this fractured family lives in. Though she is a dedicated mother, Alice is also a linguist, a gifted intelligence officer, and is Silva's equal. In addition to having a unique bond with Silva, she possesses the skill, intellect, and a focused anger that keep her engaged and alive.
The other members of Silva's elite operators include Samantha "Sam" Snow, played by Ronda Rousey (Furious 7, The Expendables 3) and William Douglas III, played by Carlo Albán (21 Grams, Whip It).
In his breakout film role, Iko Uwais portrays Li Noor, an officer of the local Special Forces " and a trusted intelligence source for the Americans " who holds the key to extremely sensitive information that could prevent a terrorist attack on the U.S. Noor offers the vital information in exchange for immediate extraction to a refuge in the United States, at which time he'll turn over the intel. Silva's team is tasked with safely transporting Noor to a waiting military transport plane at an airstrip " which is 22 miles away. As Noor, Uwais gets to display his character's special training, and display the intense and explosive fighting style that first attracted worldwide attention in The Raid films. He becomes both target and treasure, as Silva's team races to deliver him to the extraction point so he can unlock the critical information.
The events of the film are very much a reflection of the chaotic and volatile new political reality we find ourselves in, both at home and abroad, complete with myriad threats to our democracy that exist on any given day. In assessing and responding to these threats, the first option is diplomacy. The second option is military. When those options fail, Overwatch is the third option. Covert intelligence informs and launches an Overwatch operation, and once it is launched, the team members resign and are no longer acting as U.S. citizens. They are not bound by established rules of engagement; their mission is everything, and its successful outcome is their only objective, regardless of the losses sustained. America is safe because of these special ops soldiers, who sacrifice their personal lives and relationships in allegiance to the mission of protecting us from attacks. These nameless men and women are a real-life team of Avengers, relying on instinct, bravery, and combat skill instead of superpowers.
Introduction To The Story
While this film is the fourth collaboration between director Peter Berg and leading man, Mark Wahlberg, it marks the first time they've partnered to tackle a wholly original narrative " one that is neither a sequel, nor an adaptation of an existing work. 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. As they race against both time and geography to complete their mission, they must survive bombs, firefights, and brutal hand-to-hand combat, sustaining tremendous losses and turning the city into a battleground.
The film opens in a suburban neighborhood on the American east coast, as Silva and his highly trained team of operatives – Alice Kerr (Lauren Cohan), Sam Snow (Ronda Rousey), and William "Dougie" Douglas III (Carlo Albán) – execute an Overwatch mission: infiltrate a Russian safe house to break up their operation, capture and identify their operatives, and seize their intel. When the off-the-books raid encounters an unexpected complication, their mission orders change from "capture" to "kill", Silva is forced to intervene and subsequently kills one of the Russian operatives, a 20-year-old man whose death has profound and unforeseen repercussions. The team completes their mission, having lost one member, and escapes without being detected and leaving no evidence or trace that they were ever there " which is exactly what they are trained to do.
Two years after the Russian safe house job, Silva and his team are stationed overseas at the U.S. Embassy in the politically volatile host country Indocarr in Southeast Asia, where they are trying to track down a cache of missing radioactive powder discs that could be used to make dirty bombs. Silva meets his team members, Sam and Douglas, offsite in a safe café to obtain a progress report on the search for the missing explosives. When it turns out their leads failed to yield the desired results, Silva is understandably angry and refocuses the team as they continue to hunt for clues and information that will help them recover the explosives.
Back at the U.S. embassy, the intelligence group is briefed and admonished for not having found reliable intel to recover the missing explosive materials, and as they sit in a conference room with a list of terrorist attacks written on the white board, they are reminded of the urgency of the matter and what's at stake, as commanding officer Johnny Porter (Terry Kinney) explains, "If you don't find the Cesium before it's too late, you will be held responsible for the single largest intelligence fumble since a flight instruction school in Florida failed to grasp the significance of a 19-yearold terrorist saying he didn't need to learn how to land."
Li Noor (Iko Uwais), a Special Forces officer for Indocarr " and a trusted intelligence source for the Americans " arrives at the embassy with a gift: an encrypted hard drive containing the locations of the stolen radioactive material, as well as the names involved in its theft. Noor knows the value of this actionable intelligence and demands to be put on a plane and transported to a safe location, at which time he will provide the passkey to unlock the drive and its information. While Noor is taken to the infirmary for identification and examination, the U.S. Ambassador receives a visit from the Deputy Foreign Minister and his security associate Axel, during which they request that Noor be handed over to them.
Meanwhile, covert agents posing as doctors infiltrate the embassy, attacking Noor in an attempt to eliminate him. An explosive fight ensues in the infirmary, leaving Noor alive and the assassination attempt foiled, thanks to his deadly Special Forces combat training.
The Americans agree to Noor's terms and entrust Silva's team to oversee the exfiltration operation. The mission seems straightforward – escort Noor from the U.S. Embassy to a waiting transport plane 22 miles away. However, given that there has just been an assassination attempt on Embassy grounds, which qualifies as an act of war, and with the realization that there are hostile forces from Indocarr that are ready to mobilize to prevent Noor and his intel from getting out of the country, the decision is made to designate this an Overwatch operation. This requires that all team members must officially resign from the U.S. government and are no longer acting as U.S. citizens. This allows them to go off-grid and become a deniable force; they are not bound by established rules of engagement. Technically they do not exist, so the United States will disavow any knowledge of them or their activities.
In statesmanship, the first option is diplomacy. The second option is military. When those prove futile, the third option is activated: Overwatch, a covert special mission unit that can gather on short notice to solve individual problems outside the CIA's normal rules of engagement. In addition to Silva's ground team, Overwatch includes a tactical team led by its commanding officer and operational shot caller, Bishop (John Malkovich), and his five-person team, known only by similar chess piece monikers: Rook, King, Queen, Knight, and Pawn. Operating remotely from a mobile command center, this brilliant team of surveillance experts uses drones of various sizes and other advanced technology to guide Silva's team through the city to their extraction point.
As Silva's team and their fugitive passenger set out from the U.S. Embassy on the 22-mile journey, they come under a series of attacks at multiple points along the way, as Axel (Sam Medina), the right-hand man to Indocarr's deputy foreign minister, leads a group of assassins furiously trying to prevent them from carrying out their mission. As the body count rises with losses on both sides, the Overwatch surveillance team guides them through the gauntlet of lethal obstacles. Unbeknownst to Overwatch, they are not the only ones monitoring the events as they unfold; a mysterious high-tech Russian spy plane in unknown airspace carries a team of code breakers and a high-ranking Russian official (Natasha Goubskaya)" and is watching and listening to every aspect of the operation.
Starting at a busy intersection in the center of the city, Silva and his team attempt to transport their "package" through a high-speed chase through busy city streets as they attempt to evade Axel's team of motorcycle-riding assassins. When one of the assassins takes out one of the Ground Branch's vehicles with explosive charges, the city becomes a battleground, as a massive firefight ensues and Silva and his team flee on foot to a "safe house" in the form of a busy café, where they hope to procure alternative transportation. After another attack by Indocarr , the team is guided to a sprawling apartment complex, leading them into a lethal game of cat and mouse, as they fight to escape and continue the journey.
With heavy losses on both sides, relentless assassins closing in, and both Overwatch and a Russian spy plane monitoring their every move, Silva and his team of heroes risk everything, continuing on the final leg of their 22-mile journey as the timer counts down and the action builds to a thrilling and unexpected crescendo.
From Page To Screen: A Story Takes Shape
Mile 22 is the result of a years-long collaboration between director Peter Berg and first-time screenwriter, Lea Carpenter.
The two first met in 2013 at a book signing for Carpenter's debut novel, "Eleven Days", a family drama centered on the U.S. Navy SEAL community. It was released as Berg was preparing for the release of Lone Survivor. Due to their respective research and travels, the two had many people in common, which led to talk of working together at some point. Based on her acclaimed novel and other writings, Berg had been impressed by Carpenter's ability to weave family dynamics and other personal insight into stories set in the Special Forces community. "Pete asked me, 'Do you know how to write a film script?' and I said something along the lines of no, but I can figure it out," Carpenter recalls.
Berg first came to her with a script based on his original idea. "Pete's core premise was, what happens if someone comes into an embassy or a CIA station with a piece of information and offers it in exchange for being taken out of the country under very perilous circumstances," explains Carpenter. "Pete and I talked a lot about it and I was really interested in this idea: what is the risk that you take when you need to know something? How do people change when they're under the pressure to get this kind of intelligence?" As Berg and Carpenter engaged in additional discussions about the CIA and the Special Operations culture, he quickly realized she would be the perfect person to write the screenplay based on his idea. In an unusual twist, in 2008, Carpenter discovered that her own recently deceased father was earlier in his life a member of U.S. special operations, a discovery that led her to read everything she could on the topic.
As a first-time screenwriter, Carpenter ramped up her learning process by reading several screenplays Berg shared with her, as well as watching several movies she admired in the thriller/espionage genre, including Zero Dark Thirty and one of her favorites, Steven Spielberg's Munich. "That was a movie that had a big influence on me in terms of embedding some action in a more literary story and trying to put some entertainment and emotion together," she says.
Over their months of collaboration to fashion the script for Mile 22, Carpenter described working with Berg as one of the most exciting, dynamic, challenging, and creative collaborations of her career. "He helped me have the confidence to take risks as a writer that I never would have taken," she asserts. "He's had incredible patience and amazing ideas and has taken everything creatively to a new level. He has an incredible ability to always go for the humanity, which is something I don't think you would immediately think of in an action film director. But he's always looking for the human moment, always looking for the core of the scene, always saying people will know how to blow up the trucks, but you need to know what's happening emotionally."
During their discussions, they began to discuss Ground Branch, a specialized paramilitary unit within the CIA's Special Activities Division. "Ground Branch is largely comprised of former Marine Special Operators, former Navy SEALs, former Delta, and Special Forces Officers," Carpenter explains. "It's a part of the organization with really deep roots, because the CIA was founded by a group of guys who had been, more or less, paramilitary guys during World War II. It's a group that doesn't get a lot of attention because when we think about CIA, we tend to think about George Smiley, spies, and case officers. We much less often think about former military operators who then become case officers." Says Berg, "I met a lot of Navy SEALs who have graduated in Ground Branch and heard about their exploits and the very unique operations they participate in. And I just thought it was really rich material for a movie."
Although Mile 22 is a work of fiction, it's standard practice for Berg to engage a group of consultants with real world experience – from Navy SEALs and Army Rangers, to CIA officers and computer experts – to assist the cast and filmmakers in creating accurate character depictions in terms of both actions and dialogue in any given situation. As part of her research, Carpenter met with several of those consultants, including CIA professionals and specialists in the technology space, to learn more about computer hacking, coding, and viruses. "I wanted to learn how these people talk," she notes. Even during filming, Carpenter was on the phone with those tech consultants to stay up to date on the latest developments that she might be able to incorporate into the shooting script. "They were helping me understand things like zero-day exploits, timer scripts, how codes can be embedded and unraveled, how they're written, and how they're structured. We wanted it to feel real."
As the story developed, Berg suggested that the journey from embassy to getaway plane would be 22 miles. "I liked the idea that it felt like a game," Berg says. "Four people have to get 22 miles in 38 minutes. Very simple. And we're going to throw a lot of obstacles at them in between where they start and where they end up." The deceptively simple premise proved to be a solid foundation on which to build the more complex story, as it unfolds. "I thought, well, that's probably not going to be too difficult of a journey; it's only going to take 25 minutes or so," Carpenter muses. "But everyone in this fictional host country wants Li Noor dead, and we find out at different points in the first act why they want him dead. But they have a lot of people standing in their way. And because of the quality of the information he's planning on giving, and the obstacles in their way, Jimmy Silva makes the call to use the newest 'weapon' the CIA has, which is actually a human intelligence weapon."
That human intelligence weapon, Carpenter explains, goes by the code name "Overwatch" " a group within the CIA, led by the character known as Bishop. "What they do is come in and watch over extremely short, but extremely high value operations," Carpenter explains, noting that, "unlike Ground Branch, Overwatch is a complete work of fiction."
Peter Berg asserts that although Overwatch is fictional, they're loosely based on the idea of a QRF - a quick reaction force – comprised of military operators, which he also learned about making Lone Survivor. "Whenever there's any legitimate military operation – Navy SEALs, Marine recon guys, Delta Force, or Green Berets – there's usually something in place called a QRF, which is designed to be able to come in and offer assistance if the troops involved in the operation get into trouble," the director explains. "There really is a big brother watching. And they can use satellites and drones and are in very close communication with the men and women on the ground. So, the whole idea of Overwatch was taken from that."
As Berg and Carpenter conceived it, one of the protocols followed in an Overwatch operation is the notion that they will leave someone behind. Team members are expendable, if necessary, in order to complete the mission objective. "Pete and I had talked about what are the limits of patriotism," Carpenter recalls. "How could you set up a protocol where you would be breaking all sorts of rules? So, in developing Overwatch, Pete and I decided that this would not be a 'no losses' kind of organization. In signing up, you have to essentially resign from the CIA in order to go on an Overwatch op. These guys know that they're probably going to pay the price of someone dying. They don't know going out who's going to die, but we lose a lot of blood by the end of the movie."
"For our team of heroes the mission comes first," explains Peter Berg. "It's a different, every man for himself-type of camaraderie than we've seen before."
Although Ground Branch is based on reality, Berg notes that the premise of the mission coming first uses a little bit of creative license from the real Ground Branch operatives, something the filmmaker is allowed to do without the constraints of working on a film based on real events. "There's a certain type of pressure that we don't experience when we're making something up so we can have a bit more fun."
Mark Wahlberg agrees and adds, "Pete and I had done three other films all based on true stories surrounding tragic events. Basically, we wanted to do something where we could have some fun, but our idea of fun is creating a world that is full of violence, betrayal, deceit, and all of these things that I think make for a great story. We wanted to make a really smart character-driven action movie. Pete's always known his action, but the real story is the set up and there's great twists and turns in this movie, which was something that appealed to both of us."
To ratchet up the suspense even further, Carpenter added a secondary plot line during the Li Noor exfiltration operation; while the team is on their 22-mile mission, a Russian spy plane is circling the skies somewhere in the world, watching and listening to everything going on. "The idea behind the Russian spy plane and part of the concept for the film was there's always someone else watching, whoever is watching," Carpenter says. "So, we dreamed up this idea of this ultimate weapon that could fly in the sky and provide intelligence surveillance. And the idea would be that you could have a team of people on this plane who could use very new technology to locate one person anywhere in the world by picking up the right kinds of signal intelligence. And there's a female observer on the plane who we don't really know until the end of the film."
Although action is the primary focus, it was important to both Berg and Carpenter that the film explored personal themes and focused on the humanity of the characters and situations they encounter. In the film's opening, we see them in action as a team, then we gain greater insights into them as individuals, as well as how they function as a team under Silva. According to Carpenter, one of the main themes the film explores, both literally and figuratively, is that of mothers and children. We see it with Alice and her daughter, as she struggles to bridge her two worlds; one as a divorced mother who desperately loves her child, and the other world, where she is a brilliant and lethal operative, capable of extreme violence. "Throughout the film, the main character, Jimmy Silva, communicates with the leader of Overwatch, Bishop, using the call signs Child 1 and Mother," she points out. "So, we have threaded those words throughout the script. They're probably the most repeated words in the script, child and mother. And if I did my job right, there's a larger story mapped onto that about a mother and a child."
It was also a priority to have women represented in the special operations teams depicted in the film. As Carpenter notes, there are already women in the Navy SEALs and female writers and directors such as Kathryn Bigelow and Patty Jenkins who are making mainstream films in the action genre not traditionally dominated by women. "I thought if I could give a few women these very literally muscular roles, that it might differentiate it," Carpenter observes. "It's the women who are controlling everything that's going on in the movie. We have Alice keeping Jimmy Silva in check. Sam, Ronda Rousey's character, M.I.T., and the mysterious Vera, who has a lot on her hands. These are not shrinking violets." Indeed, there are no wallflowers here, no damsels waiting to be rescued. Carpenter and Berg have created female characters that are more than empowered, they are powerful " in intellect, in physical ability, in strength. They are equal to their male team members and are viewed as such; they're not standing helplessly on the sidelines, they are in the fight, weapons hot, doing their job with lethal effectiveness.
Creating Modern Combat Cinema: Director Peter Berg
After doing three films in a row based on reality – Lone Survivor, Deepwater Horizon, and Patriots Day – director Peter Berg just wanted to have some fun and just make an action movie. "That was the spirit this all started with," says Berg.
In the earliest stages of Mile 22's evolution, director Peter Berg was initially motivated by his reaction to Gareth Evans' The Raid films, both starring Iko Uwais. "I remember hearing about them," Berg recalls. "And I generally don't go see fight movies, but they were getting some buzz, Gareth's direction was getting a lot of acclaim at festivals, and people were talking about this young 'next Bruce Lee.' I went and saw the first The Raid and was just mesmerized by Iko and the film's soul, texture, emotion, and its physical brutality. He just had it. You can see a hundred guys fight, but one of them touches your soul. Iko definitely had that quality." Berg immediately knew that he wanted to work with the talented Indonesian action star, but at the time didn't know on what, when or where.
Stylistically, with Mile 22, Berg's focus was on creating a film that he considers part of a new wave of combat cinema, a brutally realistic depiction of fighting and action not reliant on computer-driven effects. "I was never a big tech person," Berg concedes. "The movies I tend to be drawn to are less tech, more real. So, with stunts and fights and action, I approach it from the standpoint of how can we make this as real as possible and limit the amount of giant green screens we have on set? That just doesn't excite me."
In describing his four-film collaboration with Wahlberg, Berg, who doesn't have a brother of his own, considers their friendship a brotherhood. "We get along tremendously well," he says. "My family gets along well with his family. My friends get along with his friends. We just have a good time." The director also cites Wahlberg's famous work ethic as an inspiration. "Mark's work ethic is probably better than mine, and I think mine's pretty intense! He's a very hard worker. I trust him to be there for me, and I think the feeling is mutual."
Berg cites independent film legend John Cassavetes for inspiring his improvisational method. "With Cassavetes you never knew what was going to happen," Berg says. "There was a script and there was a plot and story, and the characters had identifiable relationships, but within that the actors could do or say anything they wanted. And I always liked that. It felt kind of magical and real to me. It felt like you always had to pay attention. So, I always try and encourage actors to improvise by providing a safe environment where they and the crew can all feel like they can play around."
Berg says that one thing he's proud of with Mile 22 is that the film will deliver exactly what people hope. "We are what we say we are," he states. "This is a very intense 95 minutes of no fucking around, ruthless business. If you want 95 minutes of real, intense business, we've got that for you. You want to see a kickass action movie that knows exactly what it wants to be, we got one."
Assembling The Team: Casting The Film
The two-time Academy Award® nominee Mark Wahlberg reunites with Peter Berg for their fourth collaboration, following Lone Survivor, Deepwater Horizon, and Patriots Day. Mile 22 marks their first pairing for a film not based on true events; instead, they've teamed up again to create what could become a new thriller franchise. Wahlberg plays James "Jimmy" Silva, the senior officer of an elite team of operators in the CIA's Special Activities Division known as Ground Branch " experts who specialize in all manner of conventional and unconventional warfare.
"Jimmy Silva is more of an intellectual than anything," Wahlberg explains. "At the time, I felt we had already seen the kind of brooding anti-hero man of few words, so this time let's hear from a guy who's very opinionated and likes to get into the conversation. He's the kind of guy that when his team gets the green light he decides who lives, who dies, and what happens in between. He's a very cool, interesting character who doesn't care about right or wrong or who started it. He's just going to do his job and that's it."
"I thought it was interesting because when we first started working on it, I always kind of referenced Tommy Lee Jones in The Fugitive " just very unapologetic, didn't care for right or wrong "he has a job to do and he's going to do his job. Nothing and nobody is going to stop him doing that," explains Wahlberg. "But, Jimmy just takes a lot more pleasure in, and is obviously a lot more vocal in the fact that once it's a go, once it's green lit, he's the end all, be all and I think he likes playing God to a certain extent. And that's obviously a very dangerous thing, you know " power, obviously can be addictive and can be a bad thing. But I think people will love this character because they understand that when you're in these situations, the same rules that might normally apply don't. It's about survival and the big picture. Whatever we have to do to protect our homeland and our country and our people. So, the rules change when you're dealing with bad people."
When asked what drives Jimmy Silva, Wahlberg has a bead on that motivation: "His upbringing, his youth, his adolescence, and then his commitment to the job, you know? He has no family, no ties to anybody. He's committed to the job," the actor states. "And this is an every and any man left behind type of situation. The mission comes first, last, and in between. So, it's a very unique kind of skill set that these guys have that are requirements for the job."
Silva is a tough, demanding, team leader, with high expectations and extremely low tolerance for bullshit. He is hyper-focused on the mission at all times; no distractions allowed. He's a true leader, though, and when Alice's source delivers information that appears bogus, Silva refuses to throw her under the bus, instead claiming that the responsibility rests with him. "Yeah, you know, Silva doesn't really like to connect with anybody, but he does have a soft spot for Alice," Wahlberg confirms.
One of Silva's habits is regularly snapping the rubber band on his wrist.
Perhaps it's his way to remain focused. Perhaps it's a constant reminder of the pain he has endured. In one particular scene, Silva confronts Alice (Lauren Cohan) over her source's faulty intel as fellow operative, Sam (Ronda Rousey) watches as Silva delivers his tirade. After Silva exits, Sam exclaims, "He hears everything, never listens." Alice responds, "He listens to what works for him " actionable intelligence. And pain." She understands Jimmy like no one else does, probably because they are more similar than either would care to admit.
"These are very real people - Pete and Lea had a lot of exposure to these people and what they wanted to communicate more than anything is that they were still people at the end of the day," Wahlberg adds. "They do a very specific job that could make them seem a little less than human, a little more robotic, but very much people. A lot of them do have families, but in this case, we thought it would be interesting if Jimmy had no family, no ties to anybody, therefore really capable of doing anything. So, there's this kind of gray area: is this a good guy or a bad guy?"
In his research and experience with the military during the making of Lone Survivor, Peter Berg met several real Ground Branch and CIA people. "One of the things I find interesting is that these are people living in a very complex mindset twenty-four seven," he says. "They're dealing with unimaginable, violent scenarios and complicated problems that are almost like Rubik's Cubes spinning in their mind with high consequence. And I thought that the pressure and stresses on someone like this character would be quite significant and could create almost a bipolar, manic type of character. That was something that Mark [Wahlberg] and I talked about. And so, we sat down and started constructing this character with the idea that this is a man who doesn't have the luxury of small talk, doesn't have the luxury of grey thinking, and is very black or white and to the point. And he's somewhat tormented by the nature of the work that he has to do every day."
Regarding the film's very timely essence and what he wants audiences to take away from it, Wahlberg exclaims, "There's a lot of crazy things going on in the world and it's not just here, you know, it's all over the world. It's happening in countries where they didn't think it would apply to them, in Europe, in places like that. But at the end of the day, we are really just trying to entertain people. We want people to sit down, strap in, and go on this ride. And with all the twists and the turns and the action I think people are really going to love it."
Lauren Cohan, best known for portraying Maggie Greene on AMC's hit series The Walking Dead and roles in The Vampire Diaries and Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, plays CIA Ground Branch officer Alice Kerr, a key member of Silva's special ops team and someone with whom he shares a unique personal bond.
Alice is a divorced mother with an eight-year-old daughter, India, who lives in the States with her combative ex-husband, Lucas (played by Mile 22 director Peter Berg in a brief cameo). She often struggles to maintain her mission-first focus, distracted by the difficulties of co-parenting and the guilt of being an absentee mother. "Alice is very dedicated and capable of doing her job, but she's not sure if she wants to do it anymore," Cohan observes. "The frayed bonds that she's experiencing with her daughter and her home life really put a spotlight on that. But ultimately, all these characters have to stay focused, even with all the impedances in their way." Cohan notes that her character's storyline illustrates one of the film's central themes of motherhood, which is reflected in various ways throughout. "Being taken care of, being watched over," she notes. "There's just such a juxtaposition between being badass and being heart wrenching."
Cohan was drawn to the opportunity to portray a character that combines tremendous intellect, mental and emotional tenacity, and insane physical abilities. "She speaks a whole slew of languages, she's able to get herself into different situations, and get herself out of different situations," the actress muses. "So, it was a really appealing person to tackle, emotionally."
Another major draw was the film's distinctive and deliberate lack of any gender divide. "There's nothing that the men are capable of doing that the woman are not. That's something we all know and appreciate, but we really do get to show that in the movie," enthuses Cohan. "The fact that everybody has emotional intelligence, drive and physicality, just makes for a really good team of people. And at the same time, having the balance of all those skills be equal between the men and the women."
Cohan was already in great physical condition, thanks to her demanding role on The Walking Dead so she was up to the task of training to become a lethal paramilitary commando who is as dangerous in hand-to-hand combat as she is with an automatic weapon. "Alice has this whole skill set that was a real pleasure to learn. I think my biggest lesson with this movie was bringing the emotion to the fight. I'm a pretty emotional actor and to have the structure and the training and the fight style dialed in, but to know that at the end of the day it was all going to be driven by what I needed and what I had to do. And so, when I think about choreography, it's not there to house the fight, it's there to liberate the fighter. "
One of the film's most engaging dynamics is the relationship between Alice and Silva, which came from experiences Peter Berg witnessed in the substantial time he has spent with law enforcement, military, and members of the intelligence agencies over the years. He was always struck by the camaraderie the colleagues had with each other, which is something he wanted to explore between Alice and Silva. "There are men and women working in very close quarters, and living with each other, and fighting with each other, having these very intense, emotional experiences," says Berg. "But these aren't romantic relationships. These are work relationships. And sometimes very intense work relationships. And with Alice and Silva that relationship is just meant to be typical of what I've observed to be true."
Cohan's character gets to see a side of Silva that most others don't, thanks to the unique emotional bond they share. "He's a mentor, a big brother, boss, slave driver, whatever you want to call it," Cohan explains. "He really keeps her on her toes. They really know how to make each other look at the truth and be honest with themselves. The most compelling intricacy to their relationship for me is that as focused as they both are, and almost bullheaded in the tasks they need to do, they are also the only ones for each other that can kind of break the spell. Silva will get caught up in an idea and be seemingly lost to it, and Alice is the only one that can kind of pull him back to reality in a lot of ways. There's a method to his madness for sure, but she's able to recognize when it's going too far."
Reflecting on Alice's relationship with Silva, screenwriter Lea Carpenter notes, "In some ways Alice is Silva's protégé. But she's also his monk. She steadies him. More or less everyone in the movie has a meditation practice. And Silva's meditation practice, or one of them, is Alice. She touches him to steady him. She looks at him to steady him." Peter Berg adds, "Alice is the one person who can sometimes check him and try and derail him from really going down a dark hole. Hopefully we all have somebody in our life that will listen. Sometimes it's just seeing that person's face or hearing one word from that person can bring you back to a place that's a little healthier. And I think she is that for him."
Cohan adds that although Mile 22 is a fictional story, their characters are based on the real operatives who go out and do work like this. "We were lucky enough to learn about them and represent them in a really fun, thrilling action movie."
Mile 22 marks the American film debut of Indonesian action star and martial arts master Iko Uwais, best known for his starring roles in the acclaimed action film series The Raid: Redemption and The Raid 2. Uwais plays Li Noor, a local Special Forces officer in the fictional country of Indocarr who has become a trusted source for the CIA. When Noor arrives at the U.S. Embassy offering top-secret information regarding stolen radioactive materials in exchange for being transported out of the country, he starts the countdown clock to the film's explosive climax.
To ensure his request is taken seriously, he has placed the info on an encrypted hard disk, which will self-destruct in two hours, and he will only give the password to unlock the disk when he has been safely delivered to the waiting plane for extraction. After Noor's identity is confirmed and he thwarts an assassination attempt within the embassy by agents of the hostile host country, it's determined that this is an Overwatch operation. The mission: transport Li Noor to the getaway plane and obtain the decryption key. However, the route from the embassy to the waiting plane will be filled with assassins, law enforcement, and street gangs trying to stop them by any means necessary, resulting in a grueling 22-mile gauntlet of violence, mayhem, and carnage.
"Li Noor is a character who has lost trust in his own government and who comes to the CIA with information," says screenwriter Lea Carpenter. "Because of his job in Special Forces, he has an unbelievable cache of information. But he's locked it in such a way that it cannot be unlocked unless he gets what he wants, which is to get out of the country."
According to Mile 22 director, Peter Berg, "Iko is a big reason for me wanting to do this movie; he's probably what started it. A very talented filmmaker named Gareth Evans made two films: The Raid and The Raid 2, and Iko was the star of both. And these were lower budget films shot in Jakarta, Indonesia, and I remember hearing about them. I generally don't go see fight movies, and this movie was starting to get a buzz and Gareth's direction was getting a lot of acclaim at film festivals. And people were talking about "the next Bruce Lee" that was popping up out of Indonesia " Iko Uwais."
"I went and saw the film and I was just mesmerized by him and by the soul and the texture and the emotion and the physical brutality. There's something there. You can see a hundred guys fight, but one of them kinda touches your soul, and Iko definitely had that quality," enthuses Berg. "And that's what started it. In the back of my mind, I said, 'I wanna work with that guy. I don't know how or what or when or where, but Iko's special.'" Shortly thereafter, Berg began formulating plans for an action film to bring Uwais to a worldwide audience. That film became Mile 22.
As with his work on The Raid films, Uwais was also trusted with creating his fight choreography for the film, which features Silat, a traditional Indonesian form of martial arts handed down to Iko through his ancestors. Uwais gets to showcase his Silat fighting techniques in several scenes, starting with an explosive fight sequence in the infirmary at the U.S. Embassy. Throughout the 22-mile journey, even while handcuffed, Li Noor joins Silva's team to fight the pursuing assassins in several battles, including the mid-city motorcycle ambush and the penultimate showdown at the apartment complex.
Berg and Uwais shared the ideology that the film's action appeared realistic. "Nothing seems fake," says Uwais. "Every fight scene, every action scene should be realistic and believable. It's not all about effects." Uwais says their collaboration during filming could not have been stronger. "He was like family, not like a boss. We were very close. There was no ego. It was my honor to work with him. We had the best time."
Wahlberg says he had an absolute blast working with the Indonesian action star. "He's spectacular," Wahlberg enthuses. "He is also a sweetheart of a guy. Very funny, very sweet " but he's badass. We had a lot of laughs. And I loved hanging out with his crew. He was teaching me Indonesian and I was teaching him a lot of English slang." Wahlberg was impressed with Iko's ability to learn the language and feel comfortable in an environment that was infused with a lot of improvisation. "I like to throw some curveballs and obviously we're improvising within the context of the scene, and he just did an outstanding job."
"This is really the beginning for me," Uwais says of his first starring role in an American movie. "It's a perfect collaboration between martial arts and Hollywood action." Uwais hopes that it shines a light on the Indonesian style of fighting he employs, interspersed within a big Hollywood film. "When people leave the theater, I hope they feel it's the coolest action movie they've ever seen!"
Ronda Rousey is widely known for being the former UFC women's bantamweight champion fighter. More recently, she has showcased her physical prowess, both in the ring for WWE, as well as onscreen in Furious 7 and The Expendables 3. In Mile 22, she gets to defy expectations and flex her acting muscles in the role of Ground Branch officer Samantha "Sam" Snow, a member of Jimmy Silva's elite team.
"They put the script in my lap and it was a completely fresh and different role for me, and I absolutely loved it," enthuses Rousey. "My role was not so dependent on being physical and fighting; it was like completely the opposite. Pete was like, 'I don't want you to do ANY fighting. I don't want you doing anything Ronda-ish.' [He] really wanted to give me an opportunity to actually not just lean on the physicality part. I actually really love the fact that my character is great with guns and she's not really so much hand to hand combat at all, and so it was something very different for me."
Although we don't get to see the hand-to-hand fighting skills Rousey is known for, as Sam Snow, she does get to exhibit some physicality, from yanking a male Russian operative off his feet and throwing him to the ground like a rag doll, to displaying her character's marksmanship with an assault rifle. Still, it's a Ronda Rousey we haven't yet experienced. "She brings a vulnerability that one might not expect to that character," explains Berg. "I'm very proud of her as a human in terms of the adversity that she's overcome and what she went through in the UFC. To go from being that dominant, having suffered back-to-back losses would be enough to send most people to the North Pole forever. But the fact that she picked herself up, got married, has a new life, and has reinvented herself " I'm very impressed."
Sam Snow is more than just a foot soldier on a tactical team. "She is extremely intelligent and gifted in combat; she has had extensive tactical gun training. She doesn't really get nervous or anything like that. She's very relaxed in high-pressure situations. She keeps a cool head as crazy stuff happens around her all the time," says Rousey. "Sam doesn't trust anybody, but she is extremely loyal to her friends. Her friends are everything to her. Although she's got walls up, she still has a really big heart." Still, Sam Snow is part of a highly skilled group that will do anything to carry out their mission. "They do whatever is necessary, even the dirty stuff," Rousey explains. "They'll even leave their own people behind. It's mission before everything."
For the weeks prior to filming, Rousey joined the other lead actors at a special weapons training facility in Atlanta, where they trained with former Navy SEALs and Army Rangers to learn specialized skills like how to properly clear a room or hallway and how to problem solve in the moment, under tremendous pressure. "There was a lot more to it than I ever imagined," Rousey admits. "I tried my best not to look like a fool and to represent the people that I'm playing in a way that they would be proud of, because they put in so many years of work and time into their craft."
Rousey says the film provided just the challenge she needed in her life to prevent her from stagnating. "I love the process of mastering a new skill from scratch; it's what's most invigorating to me. Being here every day, I've been learning so many new things and I've been put outside my comfort zone " with Pete, Mark, Carlo, and Lauren all guiding me through it and being so patient," says Rousey.
As for what she wants the audience to experience with Mile 22, Rousey puts it simply: "I just want people to say they had fun. Walking out, I want this to be the kind of movie that makes you feel energized and drained."
Two-time Academy Award® nominee John Malkovich reunites with his Deepwater Horizon director Peter Berg and co-star Mark Wahlberg for Mile 22, portraying Bishop, the ranking officer for Overwatch. Along with his team of tech experts (who are known only by chess board monikers: King, Queen, Knight, Rook, and Pawn), Bishop monitors and is in constant communication with Silva's Ground Branch, directing them and feeding them information in real time to guide them through their mission.
While Silva's tactical team utilises heavy-duty combat weaponry, Bishop wields a different but equally powerful and effective weapon: state-of-the-art technology. It's that technology that allows Bishop to calmly do his job. "They just study and direct every element of the operation, from the route or navigating an alternate route. If they have to fight, we direct the fighting," explains Malkovich. "We have an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) control, which can shut down the power grid of the entire country, disabling media, law enforcement, et cetera. We also have two drones." Those high-tech countermeasures prove very effective in monitoring and aiding the Ground Branch team as they attempt to navigate the treacherous 22-mile gauntlet.
Bishop is an enigmatic figure, even to his colleagues; he is reserved and wellmannered but uses all the intelligence under his command to make swift life-anddeath decisions. "Bishop is very experienced and generally quite calm," Malkovich says. "He's had previous missions with Mark's character and his team before, but the film doesn't get into those details. Obviously, they know each other; Bishop refers to Silva as 'My old friend'. That's all we know."
When she was forming the characters of Silva and Bishop, screenwriter Lea Carpenter drew from her own experiences and relationships with members of the Special Operations community. For example, she knew they would both be ultraintelligent students of history. "I think this idea of the warrior poet is very much alive," she says. "My friends in Special Operations are incredibly well read, thoughtful, students of history, literature and philosophy," says Carpenter, citing novelist, naturalist, wilderness writer, and CIA agent Peter Matthiessen as one of her models for Bishop. "He was a Zen monk, but happened to also be a writer. I thought Bishop could be this aesthetically-minded student of history who just had dedicated his whole life to killing people."
Regarding Bishop and Overwatch, Malkovich is very clear. "These are people that are contracted " not for the U.S. government and not as employees of any of our intelligence agencies or military " to undertake certain activities. For the purposes of the mission, they have no allegiance to any state, any country, flag, or any rule. They're ghosts, leaving no history and no traceability to either the actors or to the acts which take place during the operations."
Unlike his co-stars, Malkovich didn't attend tactical and weapons training to prepare for his role. Instead, he relied on research to help him connect with Bishop. "I did a ton of reading, including The Looming Tower and The Ghost War. We have expert technical consultants who can explain things in detail. The best research I ever did was tour the KGB museum, which was a brilliant couple of hours. The Russians think much more long-term than we do. They have a very specific process they go through to get in people's heads, which takes generations."
After having such a great experience on Deepwater Horizon, Malkovich was looking forward to his second collaboration with both director, Peter Berg, and Mark Wahlberg, for whom he has tremendous respect. "I think he's the first actor I've ever seen who came into a reading where he knew the entire script. I don't even think he brought a script, so that gives an idea of his level of preparation," enthuses Malkovich. The Steppenwolf Theatre Company-trained actor also had high praise for his director. "Peter's style is sort of like controlled demolition. He's interested in the poetry of the real. He's super present. He takes what you do and he moves it over here, and he takes that and he puts in here, all in very unexpected ways," Malkovich says.
"He's super collaborative and a terrific director. He changes a lot of things and it keeps you very alive, very awake. It makes you really be in the story, in the moment."
Silva's team works alongside a staff of intelligence case officers and specialists, operating out of the U.S. Embassy in the city center of the unidentified host country, under the direction of the Embassy Chief and U.S. Ambassador. One of the specialists is a coding prodigy, known only as M.I.T. and played by 2015 Tony Award-nominated actress, Emily Skeggs. Trading the Broadway stage for the world of special operations, Skeggs describes her character as "a self-taught prodigy coder who's sort of the tech brain of the team. She approaches everything from the tech perspective."
Although the role of M.I.T. was originally written to be a male, the decision was made to switch the character's gender, a challenge that intrigued Skeggs. "I think there's a stereotype, an idea of what we think a coder looks like " and that stereotype is totally wrong," she says. "I was excited to take on the role from a female perspective, bring gender into play, and crack that stereotype open."
When Li Noor arrives at the Embassy with the top-secret information on a highly encrypted hard drive, it's M.I.T. who must try to crack the code. As the countdown timer on the drive ticks away, devouring the information contained on it, M.I.T. relies on her intellect to solve the puzzle. "The longer we're waiting for this time, the more information we're losing. The only other option is to figure out the author of the code," explains Skeggs. "That's where it got super-interesting for me, as an actor. They've left no trace, no distinguishing signatures to tell me who they are so that I can crack it. The one thing that stands out is this extraneous piece of code that doesn't fit in with the rest, which gives her a clue " and leads to a huge twist."
While researching to prepare for her tech-savvy role, Skeggs watched the documentary Zero Days, which follows the invention of Stuxnet, a highly sophisticated piece of self-replicating malware as yet largely unseen by the world. "Cyber warfare is the war of tomorrow. Technology is developing at such a fast rate, we can't even keep up to figure out how and when to protect ourselves, so we're left vulnerable. War is not relegated to the battlefield anymore," Skeggs adds.
She also learned that the tech world has gender disparity. "I watched this awesome documentary called Code: Debugging the Gender Gap, and the main thing I took away from it is that a lot of young women and girls are taught in school that they're not good at math or science " so they don't perform at the level they should," says Skeggs. It made her realize she'd doubted her own abilities and encouraged some self-reflection. "I took a step back and said, 'I'm good at language, logic, and puzzles. I can do that. That's all that coding is, so let me try.' I learned really basic code, and now I'm hooked!"
Her character's gender may actually give her an advantage in cracking the code. "I love the idea that M.I.T. can't figure out who the coder is, but she knows that the coder is a woman. She gets to that conclusion because the code is written in such an anonymous way " there's no ego there. It harkens back to this idea that throughout history and time, women have sort of quietly and without ego been working behind the scenes to get shit done."
"Peter Berg is an incredibly dynamic director. He works very quickly, but in a way that you get out of your head; you don't have time to think about ego-y things. You work fast and you work dirty. He knows certain tricks to get something to feel natural."
Carlo Albán, an Ecuadorian-born actor based in New York, has appeared in the films 21 Grams, Whip It, and the TV series Prison Break, as well as many Broadway and off-Broadway productions. In Mile 22, Albán plays CIA Ground Branch officer William Douglas III, better known to his team members as just Douglas " and sometimes Dougie. "He's a former Marine special operator and is considered kind of like a younger version of Silva," the actor notes. "He's mainly about loyalty to his team, who are really like his family."
For Albán, who says he grew up watching Mark Wahlberg's films, getting the opportunity to work with him was a dream come true. "Working with Mark is amazing. I just never thought I'd be doing this," he says. "If I'm being honest, it's like a dream come true. And now here I am. I'm driving the car. Mark's sitting shotgun. Lauren and Iko are in the back. It's just kind of mind-blowing to me, like I've stepped into a different reality."
Albán says working with director Peter Berg often felt like performing in a theatre. "Pete is unlike any director I've ever worked with. When Pete comes in, he rehearses the scene, but everything is very loose. He's not really attached to any of the dialogue. The film and scenes have a structure, but within that, there's a lot of room to play," he explains. "He is an actor, so he understands that we need to not feel stiff, and that we have a need to create and be a part of the process. He shoots with three or four cameras at time, so it feels almost like a play. You're actually playing out this whole thing in real time. There's so much more freedom it just makes everything feel more real. And I think it lends itself to this new wave of modern combat cinema that Pete Berg is part of."
To prepare for his role, Albán and his co-stars spent weeks training with two of the film's military tech advisors, former Army Ranger Jariko Denman and former Navy SEAL Ray Mendoza. "We started with the very basics, like how to hold a pistol and the proper form for firing," Albán recalls. "Then we moved to primary weapons, first with rubber guns, then working with the real things, but they weren't loaded. Showing us how to move, how to transition from a primary weapon into our secondary, how to do mag changes, which is something that you have to do in the field. Then they took us to a range and actually got to fire blanks."
The actors' training also involved working for a week in the interior of the apartment complex set to learn how to clear rooms as a military unit. "When you combine the training that we had with Pete's loose style of shooting, we can transition on the fly and it doesn't feel stiff. It feels real, because we actually know how to do these things. " Albán says that although their characters are fictional, they do belong to branches of the US military, so they all felt an enormous level of responsibility to get things right. "These are elite branches of the military, and they're sharing their knowledge with us. It's really an honor. They put their lives on the line every day. We're representing these people, so we want to make them look good."
When the audience first meets actor and stunt performer Sam Medina as the character of Axel, the right-hand man to Indocarr's Deputy Foreign Minister, he appears to be a standard diplomat, with an even tone and a cordial manner. However, we soon learn this is a façade, as he verbally spars with Silva in the Ambassador's office, before being revealed as the chief adversary of Silva and his team.
Medina is best known for his roles in action films, including Olympus Has Fallen and the Kickboxer series of films, so he felt right at home on Mile 22. "When I first spoke with Pete, he said, 'Look, he's not a bad guy. He's just there to do a job. The government sends him in, and he has a task to do at any cost,'" says the actor of his character. For the film, director Peter Berg wanted the physically imposing Medina to appear less menacing. "He's like, 'Look, you look badass already. I'm going to tone you down,'" Medina recalls. "He wanted to put me in a polo shirt and make me look a little bit less badass and more nerdy, an executive type. That was Pete's vision and I think worked out perfectly."
Although he has been acting for the past decade, Medina counts his experience working on Mile 22 as a career highlight. "It's the most intense directing I've ever worked with, and I've been blessed to work with some legendary directors," says Medina of Peter Berg's style. "He's an actor's director. He's pretty much an actor's dream to work with."
Medina notes that the relationship between Axel and Silva is partially inspired by the rivalry between Robert De Niro and Al Pacino in Heat, which is evident in one of the film's most tense scenes: a meeting between Axel and Silva in a brief cease-fire. "Pete said, "We are writing this scene with you and Mark Wahlberg where you guys have a meeting. You guys are just going to talk about what's going to happen. And, you know, you guys just walk away and make it go boom. It's very casual, very business,'" Medina recalls. "Mark is an extraordinary actor, so to be able to play his nemesis is really the best thing that ever happened to me."
Authenticity In Action: Tactical Training
To ensure the actors could convincingly play special ops team members, they worked with military tech advisors for several weeks prior to filming. It was important that the actors first learn basic procedures, but also understand why they were performing them, so that they could ensure their safety on set.
"The difference between training an actor and training a soldier or an operator is that I'm training people in the military to fight and accomplish missions in life and death situations. I'm training the actors and stuntmen to look good on camera," explains Jariko Denman, one of Mile 22's military tech advisors. "We use generic situations to teach basic principles: how to enter and clear a room, basics of moving down a long hallway, eliminating a threat from different firing positions, and eliminating a threat on the roof. It's giving them the tools to think through a situation, rather than them having to memorize a thousand different things that they're gonna have to constantly use."
As always, safety is the primary concern for everyone involved. "It's important to have the actors trained in the tactics, as well as the weapons they're gonna use in the movie, both for safety, and to save time in the production." Denman goes on to explain how little details bring authenticity. "Most guys with some tactical experience look for whether the actor is actually looking through their sights when they shoot; that's my number one thing, helping the actor getting that sight picture. Pete wants them to be extremely aggressive, very methodical hunters who look like they're in the zone."
That authenticity didn't come instantly. "It starts with the performers being trained and having the hours and hours of repetition to look natural and have things flow so that it looks like they do this for a living," says Denman. "Once they have the basic principles down, they can react to any changes on the day when we start shooting."
Weapons Hot: Arming The Ground Branch
Big action sequences often require big guns, so to ensure Jimmy Silva and his team of black ops Ground Branch agents were properly armed for their missions, director Peter Berg chose his trusted longtime collaborator, Doug Fox, who pulls double duty as both prop master and lead armorer on Mile 22.
"Mark Wahlberg and the rest of the cast play Ground Branch operators, and normally they are just carrying side arms. We're working closely with Glock, which everyone likes because they're lightweight and easier to carry them all day long," reveals Fox. "Most of the time, it's just one or two handguns on them, but for going out into the field, they need to augment with M-4 rifles. Plus, they have to load up their vehicles with enough weapons and gear to get themselves to the extraction point."
In addition to the Ground Branch team, Fox also had to outfit the hostile forces that try to prevent them from delivering Li Noor to safety. To ensure that all the weaponry was safely transported to the filming locations in Atlanta, Georgia and Bogota, Colombia, Fox had to place duplicate orders so one could begin the international manifest paperwork process. "For this movie, we're in the neighborhood of 50 weapons on a manifest going to Colombia. That includes machine guns, M-4's, AK's, and Uzis; we also have to ship 40,000 rounds of blank ammo. All in all, it's probably half a million dollars' worth of weapons heading that way. We'll be the first company to actually ship live weapons into Bogota for movie purposes."
Michael Panevics served as the prop master and key armorer on location in Colombia, which serves as the setting for an epic street battle in the fictional Southeast Asian country of Indocarr, which required more than just guns and ammo. "They stick a charge on the back of the Jeep and it explodes. And a big gunfight ensues in the middle of the street. Lots of gunfire, cars blow up, grenades get thrown, grenade launchers are fired," says Panevics of the street war scene that ranks as one of the most intense action sequences in recent memory.
After working with Berg on Lone Survivor, Fox was already prepared for the job. "I've seen the way Pete shoots things " it's very cinema vérité. He doesn't like the cut, so we have to have everything laid out from start to finish, which could mean 30 guys firing guns at one time," warns Fox. "Pete likes it real, so that's what we give him."
Cinematography: Filming Modern Combat Cinema
The key filmmaker helping to bring Berg's vision to life is director of photography Jacques Jouffret, who previously served as the "A" camera and Steadicam operator on several of the director's earlier films, including Patriots Day, Deepwater Horizon, and Lone Survivor. After a long career as an award-winning camera operator on dozens of films for many directors, including Berg and Michael Bay, the French-born Jouffret most recently began working as a cinematographer on films such as The Purge series and Truth or Dare. Jouffret's engaging style of cinematography was a perfect blend with Peter Berg's improvisational approach to directing actors, which allows for tremendous freedom to try different choices.
For Mile 22, Jouffret decided to employ the largely handheld documentary style he employed on his other films with Berg, a method they both appreciate for its natural look. "My approach to filmmaking is to have as much freedom as possible to shoot in every direction at any time," says Jouffret, who cites the 1966 Italian-Algerian historical war film, The Battle of Algiers as not only his favorite film, but one whose documentary, neorealist style had the greatest influence on his approach to Mile 22.
"When someone asks me what I try and do with filmmaking, I say that I hope people watching feel what is happening is real, that they are watching a documentary."
Jouffret's engaging style of cinematography was a perfect blend with Peter Berg's improvisational approach to directing actors, which allows for tremendous freedom to try different choices. Jouffret and his team employed a wide array of cameras to capture the kinetic intensity of the film's city-spanning action and driving sequences. "I made the decision to use multiple cameras to give that sense of reality and that anything can happen," Jouffret says. The story also unfolds from many different perspectives, including the surface action, CCTVs, and aerial views from the viewpoint of the Overwatch team monitoring the mission with drones.
To ensure he was able to achieve the look he and Berg wanted, Jouffret chose to use seven of Panavision's brand new large-format Millennium DXL 8K cameras outfitted with T-series anamorphic lenses, which provided him with a larger format than standard spherical lenses, thereby creating a more visceral, cinematic, widescreen experience for moviegoers. He notes this is the first time he's used these cameras on a Peter Berg film.
In addition to his camera operators, the film relied on both an aerial drone unit to provide Overwatch's surveillance angle on the action, as well as a host of Go Pro cameras that were mounted at most of the sets to provide additional monitoring angles. Having multiple surveillance cameras meant that many scenes had to be filmed in two ways: one with human camera operators, and then after they cleared out of the shot the scenes would be done again for the surveillance cameras.
Using multiple cameras from various perspectives provided the performances with the level of verisimilitude the cinematographer was aiming for. "I use a combination of things to get that truth. I place cameras far away from the actors so they don't feel like there is a camera on them, and then we'll go in close with handheld cameras. I wanted to give complete freedom to the actors so the audience feels they are in the moment. I didn't want to be tied into a dolly to track someone."
Berg was adamant that the events of the film take place in daylight, so filming in Bogota came with a major challenge: the weather, which tremendously affected his approach to determining the look of the film. "When I came to Bogota for the first time during the initial scout, I realized how overcast the sky is and saw all the menacing clouds constantly changing," explains Jouffret. "I took my cue that this movie would have a more somber, austere look than I originally planned." With a year-round subtropical climate due its geographical position in the Northern Andes Mountain and an elevation of 8661 feet above sea level, Bogota's constantly changing weather and cloud cover was Jouffret's biggest challenge since keeping the consistency of the exterior light meant a lot of waiting for the right moments to shoot. In addition to his position as overall director of photography, Jouffret also served as the "A" camera operator. Along with a "B" and "C" camera team, the film was primarily shot in a hand-held format with very limited use of any dollies or cranes, which lends immediacy to the film, drawing the audience into the action. There was also a second unit camera team that occasionally provided additional cameras during action-heavy sequences, as well as a separate drone camera unit responsible for all of the Overwatch aerial surveillance perspectives.
Executive producer Stuart Besser notes, "Jacques operated on several of Peter's films and knows him better than anybody else. And with Peter's way of filmmaking and the years he and Jacques worked together, there was an immediate understanding. There are a lot of cameras out there, with which Peter gets his master, his singles, and all the coverage all at once, allowing the actors not to have to run through it 20, 30 times with different setups." This was instrumental to the production meeting the aggressive filming schedule: the entire film was filmed in a mere 42 days.
Production Design: Creating A Real-World Look
Mile 22 marks the first collaboration between British production designer Andrew Menzies and director Peter Berg. The designer, whose credits include two films with director David Ayer, Bright and Fury, as well as Power Rangers, felt this film was in his wheelhouse. "As we went along, the look of the movie actually evolved from a Children of Men look that was semi-futuristic, into an alternative now; a much more grounded, gritty, real world look that Peter wanted."
It was Berg's insistence on authenticity in all aspects of his film that inspired the designer to maintain a visual realism in all the sets he designed. "One of the first things he told me was 'I like a working-class aesthetic'. He likes to de-saturate the style out of the movie, which I think is similar to the Bourne movies " very grounded and real," Menzies recalls.
With very limited prep time for such a complicated film, Menzies had to leverage real world the location of Bogota, Colombia. "For the look of the movie, I wanted to tell a story " that they were trapped in the middle of a city so that you felt they couldn't be extracted by helicopter or anything; they had to work their way out of that city," says the designer. "It's a really interesting city because it's got a lot of variety. You could be in an Eastern Bloc country. You could be anywhere in the world."
As luck would have it, they ended up shooting exteriors at the real U.S. Embassy, which had been decommissioned and was then purchased by the Colombian government. Similar architecture of the two buildings allowed them to match the interior sets used in Atlanta with near perfection. "I was trying to make the place feel very peaceful and safe, like you're in this sort of a concrete bunker because they are in a city that has unrest. We've up armored the exterior of the Embassy, with barbed wire along the fences," says Menzies. "When they leave the safety of the Embassy, suddenly they're in this world of mayhem: businesses, bright colors, and lights."
To devise the slightly futuristic medical status screens and communications devices depicted in the movie, Menzies consulted with a team of military advisors to obtain input on the kinds of devices that might be used on future missions. "For all the technology in the movie, it's grounded with what people in the know have told us," he states. "We made some changes to make it more real, but we definitely tapped into what our advisors have told us is the next generation."
To create the Overwatch mobile headquarters, the production used the second floor of the historic Dekalb County Courthouse in the Atlanta suburb of Decatur, transforming the former judges' chambers into the makeshift mission operations center where ranking officer Bishop (John Malkovich) and his team oversee and monitor Silva's mission. "We designed their portable work stations as a riff off drone operators," the production designer reveals. "All of their equipment can fold out of cases. It's like they're military roadies. They can travel anywhere incognito and move into these abandoned spaces and, using their own power, can set up off the grid, do their job and leave. They're always on the move."
The interior of the sophisticated Russian spy plane was partly based on Russian nuclear submarines. "The Russian plane is a giant code cracking device," Menzies says. "It's listening to all the chatter on the waves from U.S. Embassies to U.S. personnel around the world, trying to track down the chatter between Ground Branch and Overwatch." Like the other sets in the film, Menzies wanted the spy plane to feel grounded and real. "It feels dense with technology, but it's all working class; no transparent screens and all that fancy stuff."
Menzies says, for him, Berg's notion of modern combat cinema is specifically about being more grounded. "It's the real world, rather than glamorous and cool," Menzies observes. "The general audience is much wiser to combat these days because of the wars that have been going on for so long. They know what firearms can do; they know what grenades can do. I think what Peter's bringing to the table is that there's a real world out there where people are fallible and they make mistakes. They're highly trained, but they're still human. What I tried to do is help build that backdrop and keep it as real as possible."
Costume Design: Dressing To Kill
When costume designer Virginia Johnson creates the look of each character, she puts a great deal of focus on painstaking attention to detail, whether it's creating 18th century period gowns, outfitting superheroes in colorful spandex costumes, or shopping off the rack from a local Nordstrom. Her work includes Professor Marston and the Wonder Women, the upcoming The New Mutants, and Patriots Day, her first collaboration with her Mile 22 director, Peter Berg. "What I love about working with Peter Berg is that nothing is insignificant," the costume designer notes. "We pay attention to all the details, even if we're making up a fictional country with fictional characters, we're always grounded in realism."
In both designing and selecting the cast's attire for the film, Johnson took her primary cue from the fictitious host country, which forced her to use her imagination to decide how people would dress in this global metropolis. I started talking with Peter about where the country is, because I knew that would influence how people would dress. What's the season? What's the climate? In the end, he wanted it to be as unspecific as possible," she says. "Pete's feeling was that it was a country that people want out of. It's falling out, it's not a place you can imagine a future in. At the same time, it's not a Third World country; it's a developing nation that has a metropolis with a diverse and complicated community."
Johnson scoured photo blogs and books featuring images of heavily populated cities for inspiration. "My mood boards focused on Buenos Aires, Mexico City, New York City, Los Angeles, Vancouver, and London " places where you see an immigrant population," she notes. "Keep in mind that there is fast fashion all over the world, so you can see someone running around in a Levi's t-shirt everywhere now." One of the photo blogs she came across was from Bogota, Colombia, and it featured the bicycle and motorcycle culture within the city. A few photos from her mood board even ended up influencing what both Silva and the host country assassins wear. "From Silva to Bishop to Li Noor, there's something a little special about them, the way they dress and the way they carry themselves that gives them a distinctive style," Johnson says. "That's what I try and imbue with each character."
Johnson did extensive research into what CIA special agents wear in the field. "For the Ground Branch team, we immediately pushed away from suits and the government contract-for-hire look of cargo pants and polo shirts. Instead, we wanted them to look unique. They're a little laissez faire. They dress like the people they are, in street clothes, but there's a character purposefulness to how they dress." Rather than custom make each piece of wardrobe, Johnson says she used an off the rack approach. "Most of the wardrobe was purchased off the rack, but nothing went on camera untouched," she notes, explaining that each piece was slightly customized in the fit or the color for each actor. "We had tons of multiples for everyone. Throughout the film people undergo a lot of events – explosions, gunfire, knife fights, stepping on debris, so there are plenty of things that can happen to the clothing."
With the neutral palettes of the U.S. Embassy and the makeshift Overwatch headquarters where much of the interior scenes occur, she decided to choose clothing that would pop against that background. "When you go into the Embassy the lines are clean and cool," she explains. "Pete said, 'I don't want us to be afraid of color,' so we used little hints of color for our whole team – Silva, Alice, Sam, Douglas – but he also wanted them to look a little outside the box, not your typical CIA agent."
Johnson also worked closely with production designer Andrew Menzies on the overall color palette for the costumes and how they'll look in certain sets and lighting conditions. "We actually have a really tight color palette, but with this through line of a red tone," Johnson says. "We have a warmth for Ground Branch that we used throughout, and then the host country assassins are in greens and blue cool tones to separate them visually."
For Mark Wahlberg's character, James "Jimmy" Silva, she envisioned what she calls a jeans and flannel guy. "It's a very Boston or Massachusetts kind of look, none of which screams 'I am a CIA agent!' You could walk the streets, grab a coffee, it would feel completely normal and very American. He's a guy who could walk through the action and not be fazed."
For Ronda Rousey's character, Sam Snow, the designer wanted to push against type. "Ronda is super athletic, she's a fighter," Johnson says. "We wanted her to twist that idea of people's expectations of how a Ronda-type character would dress. She's tough, but she doesn't have to dress in sleeveless cutoff shorts and cargo pants to make that visual statement." For Lauren Cohan's character of Alice Kerr, Johnson says they chose a "tactical version of athleisure wear," "It's all mixed up and tailored to someone who is athletic " and could kill you," Johnson laughs.
The Overwatch team has a nondescript aesthetic. "There's a street style to them, yet they are trying to disappear," she explains. "If you saw them on the street, nothing about them would signal that they're a highly intelligent and powerful secret group running a government operation." As Bishop, the leader of Overwatch, John Malkovich is in a position of quiet power, so Johnson envisioned "your quirky college professor at an Ivy League school – tie, sweater, but he wears a pair of Converse AllStar high tops." The rest of the Overwatch team gets a more sleek, unified look. "We wanted them to look purposeful, like they were there to work. So, the entire team shows up at the new operation headquarters dressed in beautiful tailored suits – black, navy, and charcoal grey."
Director Peter Berg had a specific request for the character of Li Noor, the Indocarr Special Forces informant played by Iko Uwais; he wanted Noor to dress in clothing the Americans would find presentable and non-threatening, instead of having him in a uniform, as might be expected. He shows up at the embassy in a polo shirt and chinos, which is a complete one-eighty from everybody's idea of what the character is," Johnson expresses. "He has this very young, American, preppy kid vibe "but the giveaway is that he wears a pair of tactical boots."
In addition to the principal characters, Johnson also had to outfit the analysts aboard the Russian spy plane, which required some espionage-style costume design. To achieve what she describes as "a very military/industrial complex vibe," she was inspired by images she saw of Russian President Vladimir Putin's war room with young men all dressed in matching polo shirts with stripes on their collar. However, despite encountering legal and logistical roadblocks in sourcing and shipping them, she was able to secure 15 authentic Russian defense forces uniforms; she convinced her Russian supplier to bring the uniforms to the United States in their personal luggage.
Johnson and her costume department were also responsible for 800 actors and extras. She says that her one goal for every piece of wardrobe is that it looks like each character owns them and has lived in them. "I don't want anything to look like it was picked up in the mall that morning. I don't want it to feel brand new. I want there to be some wrinkles, like the characters have lived in their clothes."
Keep It Practical, Make It Real: Special Effects
Mile 22 was filmed on a surprisingly short 42-day shoot between November 2017 and February 2018, filming the majority of its interiors in Atlanta, Georgia during the first five weeks, before moving to Bogota, Colombia for the remainder of the shoot, where the exterior action scenes were staged in the middle of the bustling city on practical locations. After considering locations in Asia, the filmmakers selected Bogota for its ability to double as almost anywhere in the world, as well as its proximity to Atlanta for travel and logistics.
"We always try to make everything as real as possible and do all the stuff practical," actor/producer Mark Wahlberg says. This included the actors doing many of their own stunts. "It usually entails my getting the crap kicked out of me," he quips. "But I know the end result is going to be great, and as long as I get to go home with my arms and legs I'm a happy camper."
Veteran special effects supervisor Matt Kutcher and his team were responsible for all the various practical effects in the film, including all the explosions, car crashes, bullet hits, squibs, and muzzle flashes. In keeping with Berg's mandate for the film to exhibit the pinnacle of "modern combat cinema," it was essential to rely on practical effects as much as possible, keeping visual effects to a minimum. Kutcher, who lent his FX skills to Berg's Patriots Day and Deepwater Horizon, says, "What I find with Peter Berg, more than with other directors, is that it's going to happen for real, it's going to happen in front of the camera, and it's going to happen the first time."
In addition to the explosive effects sequences featuring both the east coast Russian safe house and the Indocarr café safe house, the SFX veteran was responsible for various vehicle explosions during the team's 22-mile journey through the host city. To film the high-speed chase sequences, the production filmed driving scenes in various neighborhoods in Bogota, but mostly located around the busy Centro Internacional business district lined with office buildings, apartment towers, businesses and restaurants. The producers worked closely with Bogota's transportation division to close roads for several days to allow filming of various driving and stunt sequences.
The street war is the first of several vehicle chase sequences that relied on RDV's (Roof Driven Vehicles). To make filming these high-speed pursuits possible, Kutcher and his FX team rigged the picture vehicle with rooftop roll cages that would allow stunt drivers to steer the car from the roof, out of sight of the cameras. By allowing stunt drivers full access to the vehicle's controls, including brakes and steering, it enabled them to drive the vehicles externally while the actors were inside, focusing on their craft without the added pressure of having to drive. To support Berg's vision of modern combat cinema, these RDV's also had platforms on both the driver and passenger sides, where camera operators were harnessed in and could film the action in the same handheld style as the rest of the film.
"The actors are inside doing what they do best, while stunts are outside driving and doing what they do best," Kutcher explains. "You put the stunt driver on top of the pod, and that way you get the actors acting like they're driving, crashing, and returning gunfire, but what you really have is a stunt guy up on top driving this pod and the actor is inside reacting to real life. And when the audience sees it, all that stuff in the car makes it look like the actors are really road racing through the narrow streets of Colombia. So, we could bump and bang multiple times and give the audience their money's worth. This is about the only way to get it done."
"Pete had a great idea that the street war shoot-out should feel like Heat, says production designer Andrew Menzies. "It should be in a very populated, busy metropolitan center. And this location worked in the journey because you're in a place that you wouldn't expect to be ambushed in because you're in the public eye. And then suddenly all hell breaks loose and it's full-on for the rest of the movie."
Government Cooperation: Filming In Bogota
To lay the groundwork for filming an action film of this scale, which would involve multiple street closures, car chases, gunfire, and explosions, the filmmakers began speaking with officials of the Colombian government and the City of Bogota back in June of 2017. One of the most important special permits the filmmakers had to get was to allow aerial filming in what were normally the city's no-fly zones. With the entire mission monitored by drones operated by the Overwatch team, that meant cameras in the air on nearly every filming day in order to get the required "surveillance" footage.
"The government was very supportive throughout the process and were integral in allowing us to do the things that we needed to do," says Miguel Tapia, the Colombia location manager. "Everybody wanted to see this be successful. I met with the President in September of 2017 and with other government officials all the way up to the top ministers in the city," recalls executive producer Stuart Besser. "This is the first U.S. based film that has ever come to Bogota, that's filmed in the middle of the city, and has nothing to do with the drug trade. That was huge to them. And their enthusiasm about that, as well as their increasing desire to promote Colombia and Bogota as a filming location, a friendly place to work, as well as a safe city, is what they embraced."
While on location in Bogota, the film teamed up with local production company Dynamo, one of Latin America's most prominent production houses, which provided production services and crew to work side-by-side with the U.S. crew in all the film's departments, from locations, security and transportation, to assistant directors, hair, make up and wardrobe. Although many of the Colombian crew had experience on shows such as Narcos, working on Mile 22 also provided many firsttime crewmembers with hands-on experience to advance their own technical skills.
"One of the most important parts of the process of filming in Bogota was the inclusion of Dynamo Productions," says location manager Miguel Tapia. "They really helped us adapt and figure out the processes, rules and then along the way we tried to adapt some of those processes with how we normally function in the U.S." Tapia notes that in filming big action scenes on busy Bogota streets often required a crew of up to 1500. "Things are done differently here dealing with the police, security, dealing with a logistics to help us implement all the street closures, pedestrian and traffic control," he explains.
Both then-Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos and Bogota mayor Enrique Penalosa rolled out the red carpet for the filmmakers, including cooperation from the national police, the transit authority, and the military. "It was remarkable how President Santos and his government really opened up their city to us," Peter Berg says. "We were basically given keys to the city. We were allowed to go into their equivalent of Times Square and shut it down for 10 days and do some pretty hectic stuff. The fact that we were able to use the real city and interact with the real city in a pretty kinetic way really helped give us the look we were going for."
The President and his family even got personally involved in the film; the President's son, Esteban Santos, who recently graduated from the University of Virginia, appears in the film as a U.S. Embassy military guard. Then, during a visit to set, President Santos found himself in the middle of the action, as Peter Berg handed him a Panavision camera that he operated during a scene featuring Mark Wahlberg.
Making The Stunt: The Infirmary Fight
One of the most thrilling scenes in Mile 22 takes place in the infirmary of the U.S. Embassy and depicts a brutal close quarters, hand-to-hand fight between Li Noor, played by Indonesian martial arts and action star, Iko Uwais, and two assassins sent to neutralize him before he can hand over top secret information to the CIA. The fight sequence serves both as a perfect showcase for his fighting skills, and to announce his status as Hollywood's newest breakout action star.
Uwais choreographed the realistic fight scene with the two actors who play the assassins, his longtime training partner, Rama Ruswadi, and stunt performer/actor Sam Looc, along with second unit director Kevin Scott, stunt coordinator Clay Cullen, fight coordinator Ryan Watson, and stunt utility Lateef Crowder. The fight sequence features multiple martial arts styles, including capoeira, Chinese kickboxing, Kung-Fu, as well as Iko Uwais' trademark, Silat " the Indonesian style of fighting known for its use of knives and other weapons.
"We spent weeks prepping for this fight, making sure everything works as far as geography, props, and set decoration. We choreographed it, shot pre-vis, and ran it. Then on the day, we just went for it 100%," explains fight choreographer Sam Looc. "We want to make sure it's as raw and that it looks real. That's the main concern. What makes this fight unique is the fact that Li Noor is handcuffed to the hospital bed and wearing only briefs when he is attacked."
"He's handcuffed to the bed, so that is almost like a fourth character in the fight; he can't get off it. The whole time he's fighting, he's involved in this situation where he has to break free. He's like a chained dog," says fight coordinator, Ryan Watson. "The vibe in this fight was to try to think of everything that can cause the heebie-jeebies, including needles and bedpans."
The infirmary fight was filmed in the U.S. Embassy set in downtown Atlanta over the course of an entire week, employing both the film's first and second units. According to Uwais, for audiences the fight should feel very real, at full speed and full power. "Maybe sometimes we'd get a real hit, even in the face, but it's fine," Uwais modestly admits. The trust and chemistry between Uwais and his core collaborators made the scene possible. "We trust each other, it's like a dance," Uwais explains. "This is the biggest fight for me in the entire movie. I'm handcuffed, nearly naked in only my underwear, and have no padding or any kind of protection. We are really punching and hitting each other, so it will look very realistic; not fake at all. It was really violent, really nasty, but a lot of fun."
"Iko is a real martial artist," Ryan Watson exclaims. "His Silat style has been passed down in his family lineage. We didn't have to use any camera tricks to make him look better at his skill. If we're talking about hey, I'm going to stab you here, he has 17 different ways to defend it, so it makes choreography and shooting it really easy."
Peter Berg knew going into the film that in addition to his acting and fighting skills, Uwais generally choreographs his own fight scenes. "One of the things that impressed me about my guys – second unit director and senior stunt coordinator Kevin Scott and his team – was that they are big, confident, American fight choreographers who are used to doing things their own way, but they all welcomed Iko and let him take the lead," the director says. "What was interesting was to watch the American guys support Iko, and then watch the Indonesian fighters learn from the American guys. So, it became this very interesting laboratory. And there ended up being some Brazilian and French guys. And I think there was a Polish fighter. It was just this crazy United Nations of guys beating the shit out of each other all day."
Release Date: August 30th, 2018