The Art of Mastering Chaos on the Set of Peter Berg’s ‘Mile 22’

     June 5, 2018

mile-22-mark-wahlberg

Peter Berg stands to the side, whittling down a toothpick between his teeth. He squints his eyes menacingly, sizing up a group of interlopers on the set of his latest action opus Mile 22 – damn film journalists (*myself included*).

A couple of the journalists let out a light-hearted chuckle, smiling, nodding to Berg. But he doesn’t smile back; just stands there, judging, contemplating… After a moment, he points to two of the intruders and motions for them to follow. The chosen look at one another uneasily. Berg stops and turns back slightly annoyed by the delay. He motions again for them to follow. He still has yet to say a word.

At this point, I’m unsure if I should be grateful or disappointed at not being picked. I mean—it’s not out of the realm of possibility that Peter Berg is about to sacrifice these two poor saps to appease the ‘Film Godz’ for a plentiful day of takes and coverage. To play it safe—I follow the sacrificial lambs a couple paces behind.

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Image via STX Films

Berg leads us through a roadway of fake rubble and debris to a crashed car, its front side bent in. A film crew stands around the vehicle, awaiting direction on what shot to film next (or perhaps to surround us—so there’s no escape). Berg smiles at his AD devilishly, “I think I found two new stunt guys.” He points to the sheepish journos he picked earlier, then leads the duo through their ‘big break’. They, armed, will attempt to take out martial-arts star Iko Uwais (The Raid), cuffed in the backseat of the aforementioned car. Needless to say – this doesn’t end well for them.  Journalist-turned-Stunt-Guy #1 approaches Iko directly. Big mistake. When he’s within arm’s reach, Iko grabs him, turns him around and fake strangles him with a seatbelt. Meanwhile Journalist-turned-Stunt-Guy #2 approaches from the side. Another big mistake. Iko releases the limp body of #1, grabs #2, and flings him through a car window (the glass to be added later in post). Watching from the sides, Berg struggles not to smile. We’ve hardly been on set for fifteen minutes—and he’s already ‘killed’ two members of the press. After the take finishes, the two Journos get back up, no worse for the wear. Berg looks them up and down… “Let’s take it again.”

Peter Berg’s last three films (Lone Survivor, Patriot’s Day & Deepwater Horizon) have all blended action adventure spectacle within true-to-life dramas. Mile 22, however, seems to be a change of pace for the filmmaker – eschewing the real life heft of those previous features and going all in on some good ol’ natured fun. In the film, Mark Wahlberg (in his fourth collaboration with Berg) stars as James Silva, the leader of a top-secret tactical team, assigned with transferring a police officer (Uwais) twenty-two miles out of hostile territory. Of course, things don’t go according to plan – various factions attempt to stop the team and kill the officer at whatever cost necessary. Gunfights, car crashes and sky-high explosions ensue – as they’re wont to in a Mark Wahlberg-Peter Berg film.

Today’s day forty (out of forty-three) on the film shoot. For the first two weeks, the production shot in Atlanta, before moving overseas to Bogota, Columbia for the remainder of filming. Bogota’s perhaps most notorious for its high crime and murder rates – a city marked by a 50-year civil war and the resulting violence therein. In 2016, however, a peace deal was struck between the Columbian government and the FARC rebels (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia), ushering peace and stability into the country. As a result, the crime and murder rate has steadily dropped in subsequent years. Now to further clear its image to the rest of the world, Bogota’s opened its doors to Hollywood, allowing productions (like the tv series Narcos) a cheap and (most importantly) safe, exotic location to film. “Shooting in Bogota… it’s like shooting in Washington, D.C,” producer Stuart Besser adds, “We’re in the middle of a major city, with all government buildings. We shot at the president’s palace. We shot at the mayor’s office. We closed down the middle of the city. And the whole thing has worked out really well. They’ve been really supportive, and the community has been great…”

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