Cape Town - In Mile 22, Mark Wahlberg stars as Jimmy Silva, the leader of an elite paramilitary team charged with transporting foreign intelligence asset, Li Noor from the relative safety of a US Embassy in Southeast Asia to an airfield for extraction – a distance of 22 miles from the city centre.
Silva’s mission, of course, proves hardly a walk in the park. With Noor holding the key to encrypted information needed to prevent an imminent terrorist attack in exchange for safe transport to a refuge in the US, Silva’s team (Ronda Rousey and Lauren Cohan), must fight their way, mile by mile, through a dangerous urban landscape as local forces close in, determined to prevent his escape.
WATCH THE TRAILER HERE:
Mile 22 marks the fourth collaboration between Mark Wahlberg and his go-to director, Peter Berg.
While the new movie marks a departure from their previous focus on true-life stories, the action-packed thriller is nevertheless infused by the real-world culture of special ops forces, with an overall aesthetic that eschews CGI spectacle for the grit of close-quarters combat.
Wahlberg sat down for a Q&A where he discussed the making of the film.
Mile 22 marks your fourth film with Peter Berg, but also a departure from movies based on true stories. Why the pivot?
After filming three true-stories based on real tragedies, it was like, Okay… Those are complicated movies to make- and obviously we do much more than just make a movie. You’re dealing with people who have suffered tremendous loss. So, we just wanted to do something this time where we could kind of go off and do our own thing, something that was our version of ‘having a good time’. Something that was fun. That’s what this is - an intense, character-driven, action movie. But these people that you see on screen [though] really exist. They’re out there, these men and these women. Our writer, Lea Carpenter, had a lot of access to various branches of the CIA, Ground Branch (a specialised CIA paramilitary unit), things of that nature.
Did you personally meet with any operatives?
I met with former CIA people who were consultants on the movie. But I didn’t meet with any active operatives… When we went to the US Embassy in Bogota (where much of the film’s exteriors were shot), we could kind of guess who we thought was who. But we didn’t have access to them. They’d kind of stick their heads out the door as we were walking by with the ambassador, say hello, and shut the door. And we’re like, “Why can’t we go in those rooms and talk to those people?” “Well, let us introduce you to our active marines who are on the base...” But again, Lea had vast knowledge of that world and the people that live and operate in that world. So, it was enough for us to feel confident that we were making a compelling story.
How would you describe your relationship with Peter Berg, and how has it evolved over the years?
It’s a brotherhood. It’s a partnership. It’s a bromance. It’s all those things. But there’s also a real profound respect [we have] for one another. We push each other. We don’t mince words. And we talk all the time – I mean, he always FaceTimes me at the most inopportune times (laughs)… We’re doing our next film together (Wonderland), starting in September.
Did you have to do a bootcamp or any weapons training with the rest of the cast?
I’ve done so many movies where I’ve had so much extensive training. Whether it be with Renaissance Man (1994) my first film, Lone Survivor (2013), where we spent a lot of time shooting live fire and all that stuff. So, I’ve had plenty of weapons training. What I needed to figure out was how I could stay as energetic and as lit as Jimmy Silva is, all the time (laughs)... You know, I’m a pretty mellow guy until I get upset, in real life, which is a whole other story… But to be lit like that the entire time? I resorted to drinking coffee, which I don’t drink in my real life... I think the last time I drank coffee like that was on Lone Survivor and that’s because when we went up to the mountain there was no bathroom. So I had to be able to go before I went up or it was going to be a very uncomfortable day for me (laughs)... The only other time I drank coffee before that was when I had to be high on cocaine in Boogie Nights (1997), so I just drank coffee instead.
This is a very different part for you this time around. Was that part of the attraction?
Yes. Initially when Pete first came to me with the idea, it was like he was almost a secondary villain. And then it just kind of evolved into Jimmy being the focus of the story as we went on and he developed [the script] … It looked like it was something different and exciting and I hadn’t really played a bad guy in quite a while, so that was the initial appeal. Even though he’s [now] the lead, he definitely lives and exists in this gray area.
This is a fictional story, but it touches on real threats, Russian spies, things that are actually out there. When you work on a film like this, does it make you think about the kind of world we live in today? Does it scare you, sometimes, what’s going on?
Obviously, we’re all privy to a lot more information than we were in the past. But all this stuff has been going on for a very long time. And it’s good to know that these people are out there. There’s a lot of crazy things and bad things happening in the world. Imagine how much of it is being prevented as opposed to the things that do happen that we are aware of.
It’s been reported that the Mile 22 could be setting up a potential franchise?
Well, Pete’s idea was always to do three movies. So, he’s got the idea in his head for the three… Mile 44 and Mile 88. We’ll see if people love it and want to see more.
Mile 22 opens nationwide on Friday, 7 September.