This article contains major spoilers for Mile 22.
We all make mistakes. And while sometimes that means leaving the refrigerator door open, for the likes of Mark Wahlberg’s Jimmy Silva, a brilliant child prodigy turned CIA gunman, it might mean an international conspiracy that leaves members of your Overwatch team dead and in tatters. Indeed, Mile 22 ends with the realization that Iko Uwais’ Li Noor is not only a double agent, but also a triple agent, and the Overwatch component happily playing Jimmy’s eye-in-the-sky during this CIA operation just got slaughtered by what was essentially a sophisticated Russian hack.
One certainly cannot accuse Mile 22 of not being timely! Yet how did we end up with John Malkovich’s sneaker-loving Bishop seeing those same shoes soaking in his blood? Well, it goes by quickly and is intentionally ambiguous in its setup for a sequel, but we think can piece together the Chess moves for you.
The bloody denouement of the film goes back to what originally seemed like a standalone prologue. In traditional action movie storytelling, we’re introduced to Jimmy Silva and his whip-smart team, including Laura Cohan’s Alice Kerr and Ronda Rousey’s Sam Snow, during a raid on a house in an unknown country of origin. While the Southeast Asian nation Mile 22 takes place in is fictional, the bad guys in the house are decidedly Russian. They’re there due to some intelligence that was not perfect. Their raid does however lead to an explosive action sequence which includes Wahlberg’s Jimmy Silva putting two in the head of a Russian teenager.
Before the teen dies, he says “you’re making a mistake.” In typical Wahlberg banter, Jimmy replies, “I’ve made many before.” Yet while we’re led to believe that nefarious evil suits watching the CIA attempt to extract Li Noor from his fictional country want him dead, it is ultimately revealed that these shadowy presences want Jimmy Silva’s team to succeed in getting Li to that plane. For the woman who is watching this all unfold is an unnamed, but powerful, figure in the Russian government. Or perhaps she is an oligarch? It isn’t clear. The point is she was the mother of the boy Jimmy Silva shot dead at the beginning of the film, and the entire Li Noor demand for asylum was a con performed in the hopes of finding the American agents who killed her boy.
From the word go, whatever Li Noor had on his own government was immaterial enough to his Russian handlers to activate this plan. For in addition to being a local policeman who was giving information to the Americans via Cohan’s Alice Kerr, he was also an active agent for the Russian government, presumably the SVR, which activated him on this nuclear weapon wild goose chase in order to get at the Overwatch branch who already killed Russians of varying importance on foreign soil.
Presumably the boy’s mother was even the woman who coded the encrypted file that Uwais’ Li brought to the American embassy, because one feckless “computer person” (Sam Snow’s words) wonders about what “bitch wrote this.” So while Li Noor was obviously knowledgeable of some shady shenanigans in his own government—hence why a small army chases and kills most of Jimmy’s team, including Snow—he was actually in the service of the Russians, and probably on their payroll.
This was also hinted in an earlier scene where Jimmy goes all Brad Pitt in Se7en on Li, asking him during a car ride what his real motivation is since most traitors to their government do it for money. Li Noor gives a vague explanation about the corrupt local government killing his family, however he doesn’t give names, dates, or enough detail to pass the smell test. Thus it’s a wonder why the CIA didn’t pursue these questions further.
In any event, Overwatch is deployed to get Li Noor to a plane above all costs, and they do. And as he boards, he gives them the password for the encrypted file—a password which spells “Christmas” in Russian. The opening sequence of the film took place on a street named “Christmas,” which was the first of several signs this was all a trap. The other is that Li told Jimmy “say hello to your mother,” which I am totally convinced that Berg and Wahlberg made a code based on the Wahlberg-mocking SNL skit from about 10 years ago. Although I cannot prove that.
Jimmy and Alice put the pieces together right when it is too late. By entering the encrypted file, Russian hackers are allowed to break into Overwatch’s system and find out where the remaining, breathing members of Overwatch’s command center are in-country, leading to a Russian team coming in and blasting them all to hell. So no sequel for John Malkovich. Meanwhile Alice picks up that Li Noor is still “on the job,” as he is doing the hand gestures that keep him focused (as his Russian overlords also perform, which is an apparently odd telltale sign you’re in the SVR). Li is also staring awfully close at that gun an American is wearing right as the plane takes off.
So what happens next? Well… it’s unfortunately left vague. We know something on that plane went FUBAR, because the whole film is told in flashback as Jimmy Silva is being debriefed (or interrogated) by an unseen face, and he is getting increasingly pissed off during this scene intercut throughout the movie. He also doesn’t want to talk about Alice. Afterward, he already is preparing for the next game now that he can clearly see his opponent: It’s Li Noor.
In its dangling hopes for a sequel, it is hard to gauge whether Alice Kerr was also killed like the rest of Jimmy’s team. We imagine that the intent is to see how Mile 22 is received and write the sequel based around that. Given that Jimmy views Li as his true foe going forward, the latter must escape in some fashion. However, this could involve shooting his way off the plane and finding a parachute to escape or it could involve taking Alice hostage, making her unable to see her daughter that her A-hole husband is guilting her over. Or, just as likely, Li kills everyone on that plane, including Alice, and hijacks it.
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Presumably the answer would be one of the opening scenes of the sequel, if we get one. What do you think happens next, and do you wonder if Alice ever gets to see her daughter?