Writing Movie “WRONGS”
By Jim West
Directed by Peter Berg
Written by Lea Carpenter and Graham Roland
The influence of Asian Cinema in Hollywood films is a welcome change of pace to see shake up what has lately become boring rinse and repeat action scenes we have come to expect from Hollywood. In an Asian action film, the hero can die. In fact having a glorious death is a trademark. Yet this film falls flat in some poor choices made in the story which could have elevated this film to an epic status. Now there are things to like in this film, and if you are a fan of films like The Raid and Lone Survivor…well you are going to get doses of both essentially.
Here comes the spoilers.
James Silva is played by a fast and aggressive talking Mark Walberg. They montage his childhood right and establish his background efficiently, but don’t do the same for the rest of the team and that is unfortunate as the rest of the team must have some pretty good backstory as well. Silva leads a team of operative that are the final option when diplomacy and military action fail. They are called ‘Overwatch’ and their ‘mother’ is played wonderfully by John Malkovich. The film opens with a raid on a Russian FSB safe house in which they kill every Russian in the house including a young man who tells Silva he is making a huge mistake. The foreshadowing regarding the Russian villains could have been handled and less emphasized. This is just where Hollywood takes over and feels the need to spoon feed audiences plot. The distraught Russian woman on the plane is clearly known to be the young boy’s mother as she is clutching a locket full of foreshadow here.
Fast forward a year plus later the team is in Asia and tracking down the nuclear material called cesium. They are failing to find it due to their informant’s information leading to what first appeared as a false lead. The informant, Li Noor, played by Iko Uwais from The Raid does a great job as the informant who turns himself in to the US Embassy seeking asylum in America in exchange for the locations of the rest of the cesium. He gives them a self-destructing encrypted hard drive which limits their time to put in motion his extraction from the country. They have to now transport him 22 miles to an airstrip to fly him out of the country. The countries government officials come to the embassy to ask for him to be returned to them and the Chief of Security has a decent exchange of veiled threats and words with Silva. This chief of security ends up attacking Silva’s team as they are in transit to the airstrip with intelligence and assistance from the Russians who have hacked the Overwatch’s network and communications.
Silva’s team members are essentially given just enough screen time to slightly care about them when they meet their deaths. This could be fixed by giving them the same treatment as Silva’s montage treatment did for him. Only Alice, played by Laura Conrad from The Walking Dead, gets some sub-plot with a mother who has to deal with her ex-husband and how he limits her interaction with her daughter. More to this point it is a theme in the plot about mothers. The main plot is essentially a mother seeking revenge for the death of her son. Alice sub-plot is her work taking her away from her daughter. ‘Mother’ is the call sign name for Malkovich and the theme is consistent in the action sequences in the apartment building with the little girl being protected by Alice. This bundled with the heavy foreshadow seems a bit over the top, but I am okay with this.
The biggest plot hole for me is why didn’t anyone in Overwatch or Silva make the assumption the communications were not secure when the safe house they JUST arrived to had the Chief of Security and his henchmen already outside? As smart as this team is, especially how Silva was portrayed, this is not hard to assume. Instead what should have occurred is Silva realizing the communications were not secure at this moment. Then show Silva using the communications against the enemy by saying they are going one way and then going the opposite direction to mislead the henchmen. Then to communicate to ‘mother’ what they are really doing he would then have to rely on codes and hidden messages referencing chess moves and maybe even the bobble heads that ‘mother’ brought to the Overwatch command center. This would have elevated the film to a new level and really showcase the brilliance of Wahlberg’s and Malkovich’s characters.
Another huge mistake is the cutbacks to an investigation of what occurred in this operation which clearly reminds us that Silva is not going to die ever in this film and that simply ruins the risk for his character. There is never a true sense of will he make it. Huge misstep here that really served no forward progression of plot other than to over explain what is going on. Take those scenes out and let the film play without them. Again the need to spoon feed an audience is this film’s Achilles heel. Let the audience discover and follow along as it is written well and easy to follow what is going on already. Use this time to establish the backstories on the other team members. The rest of the film plays out solid and not showing Alice’s implied death simply means they possibly can bring her back for a sequel as a surprise return for her character (story wise giving her time to be a mother in the meantime). I look forward to where they take the sequel (which they setup the end of the film for), and hope they brand this into a franchise which with a title like Mile 22 is a huge marketing misstep.
Thanks for reading ‘Writing Movie ‘WRONGS’.