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Film: Mile 22

Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Lauren Cohan, John Malkovich

Directed by: Peter Berg

Duration:  1 hr 33 mins

Rating: * * *

This is the fourth outing for director Peter Berg and actor Mark Wahlberg, after Lone Survivor, Deep Water Horizon and Patriots Day and all of them were pretty decent entertainers, inspired by true events.

Mile 22 is an outright fiction story and not exactly a novel one – an elite squad that doesn’t exist in official records (no not Ethan Hunt’s team), have a mission on hand and unlike the impossible one, this one has all the standard tropes of an action thriller.

Mark Wahlberg plays Jimmy, one of those special agents with special talent to do, well, just about everything. He is more of Jack Ryan less of Jason Bourne and even less of Ethan Hunt. The film opens with a gripping scene – a couple mistakenly walks into a house – turns out they are pretending to be lost and it is part of a mission. And after the cold war, the Russians are back to being villains in Hollywood. This film also has references to elections and we all know a thing or two about where that is coming from.

John Malkovich plays Bishop, he is the boss who stands in front of surveillance screens and gives orders.

Jimmy’s team is a mix of men and women, Alice (Lauren Cohen) shoots to kill, she is a mother going through a divorce who uses a divorce app that prevents her from using cuss words and she has left a daughter behind.

Most of the action takes place in a South East Asian country where Jimmy and his team have to rescue Li (Iko Uwais of The Raid fame), who knows the password to decode bombs that could wipe out the cities – he is then referred to as the ‘package’. The team then has to escort him from the US embassy to a covert airstrip and the distance is, 22 miles. The action unfolds en route as the bad boys try to stop them in their tracks; even if it takes thousands of bullets and hundreds of bombs to achieve that. The scene even shifts to a building and surely the Indonesian actor Iko Uwais must have had a sense of déjà vu, since it resembles Gareth Evan’s The Raid (2011), although that film had more martial arts and fewer guns, unlike this one.

There are several scenes that are edited with severe rapidity including the action ones. At one point, I counted a phone conversation that had over 40 cuts within a minute.

From time to time, there are scenes of Jimmy addressing a bunch of people talking about world order and how things went wrong. The film doesn’t have a conventional conclusion and if it makes enough money at the box office, there will be a sequel.


Pursuit of Happyness

Film: Happy Phirr Bhag Jayegi

Cast: Sonakshi Sinha, Jimmy Shergill, Ali Fazal

Directed by: Mudassar Aziz

Duration:   2 hrs 17 mins

Rating: * *

Happy Bhag Jayegi (2016) was not exactly the most memorable film but at least it had a clever premise and some funny moments. This sequel has clearly been worked backwards – the idea to make a sequel seems to have originated first and a hare brained story has been worked out to fit in.

In Punjab, every third person is possibly called Happy and the name is not specific to any gender. If Diana Penty played the lead role in the first film, Sonakshi Sinha also turns up here, as Happy. Instead of Pakistan, the scene shifts to Shanghai. Happy number one is married to Guddu (Ali Fazal), who is a singer of sorts. They land up in China because he is invited for a concert. Happy number two (Sonakshi) is a professor of Botany (or was she a horticulturist? Can’t remember, don’t care) who is there to give a lecture but there is a mix up. Instead of Happy number 1, Happy number 2 gets kidnapped by the Chinese mafia, for reasons which are more difficult to understand than Trump’s logic.

Bagga (Jimmy Shergill) has to take off moments before his wedding while the Pakistani cop Usman (Piyush Mishra) is whisked away during his retirement ceremony – they also land in China to lend a hand.

You don’t really need to know the rest of the complications that are artificially created in the plot. The writing and the dialogues lack any semblance of ingenuity and while it may not be mandatory to be politically correct, at least it should be clever, if they are going to make fun.

Sonakshi Sinha is a complete misfit in the role while Jimmy Shergill tries to infuse some life. As for the rest, in order to escape the torment, I couldn’t wait for Happy to escape.


Dog Day Nights

Film: Alpha

Cast: Kodi Smit-McPhee, Jóhannes Haukur Jóhannesson

Directed by:  Albert Hughes

Duration: 1 hr 36 mins

Rating: * * *

There is something about man’s friendship with animals that appeals to our sensibilities. Since a dog is man’s best friend, it is particularly effective if the animal is a canine.

Man versus beast and man with beast, both these subjects have been dealt with regularity in Hollywood, particularly the former. Alpha marks the feature film debut of Albert Hughes and the result is mixed. The visuals are gorgeous but the film falters in its pacing with long passages where nothing exciting happens.

Set in Europe 20,000 years ago, Keda (Kodi Smit-McPhee), a young man from a tribe finds it hard to live up to his chieftain father’s (Jóhannes Haukur Jóhannesson) expectations. During a particular hunt, where Keda is expected to prove his mettle, he is left alone, stranded on a mountain, while his father assumes that he is dead.

Keda then encounters a wolf that gets wounded – the young man treats him, they become friends and then start a rather arduous journey back home.

Most of the screen time is consumed with just the two of them with gorgeous landscapes (like a travel channel) – there is only so much of it that you can take since nothing much happens. But once they encounter adversities in terms of weather and food, it gets moving. Whenever they are teaming up, the film is enjoyable, particularly in the last leg of their journey and it ends with those “Oh, so cute” moments.

There are no English dialogues in the film (except for Morgan Freeman’s voiceover), the characters, as and when they speak, they speak in a primitive language, with subtitles for your convenience. Even though cinematically it falls short, if you love dogs, like yours truly, Alpha is a pleasant watch. After all, no one gives undemanding happiness like a canine.

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