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Mile 22's Twist Ending: What Happened Beneath All of That Bloodshed

WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for director Peter Berg's Mile 22, in theaters now.

While he may have the widely panned alien-invasion film Battleship among his list of credits, director Peter Berg more typically takes a realistic approach to his explorations of war and terrorism. That's evidenced by such works as The Kingdom, Lone Survivor and Patriots Day, the latter two of which starred Mark Wahlberg.

For Mile 22, Berg teams with Wahlberg for a fourth time to tell the story of James Silva and his off-the-books CIA special-ops team as they assess threats to the United States in the fictional Southeast Asian nation of Indocarr. What ensues is a high-octane run-for-cover thriller as they hustle to transport an informant seeking asylum. Although the escape is successful, the team is dealt an enormous blow that leaves homeland security in an even more fragile state.

The ending of Mile 22 is directly related to the beginning, which at first glance seems like a run-of-the-mill terrorist raid. Silva, Alice (The Walking Dead's Lauren Cohan), Sam (WWE's Ronda Rousey) and William (Carlo Alban) emerge as the lone survivors after taking down what they're told is a Russian terrorist cell by a team of handlers called Overwatch. Basically, they operate Silva's squad remotely, overseen by a leader referred to as Mother (John Malkovich), a role similar to that of Oracle in DC comics. The mission is ultimately botched due to bad intelligence, and the special-ops team ends up killing Russian refugees in a safe house.

Recognizing the mistake, the U.S. government frames Russian insurgents for the slaughter, and the film jumps to years later in Indocarr, where Silva's unit is hunting stolen nuclear material. They've been absolved of their sins, although they're not functioning as well, feeling the pressures of their mistakes. However, a gift seemingly walks into the U.S. embassy in the form of a local cop, Li (Iko Uwais of The Raid franchise), who claims to know where the nuclear material is, although his information is stored on a disc set to self-destruct in eight hours. If they get him to America, he'll reveal the code, and so, Silva & Co. set out to secret him to an airstrip 22 miles away, with Overwatch brought in to marshal the operation.

REVIEW: Mile 22 Is An Exhausting Splatter-Fest Pretending to Be a Thriller

However, corrupt Indocarr authorities have authorized all military forces -- from the army to cops to random mercenaries -- to prevent the extraction. Alice and Li make it to their destination, with Silva deciding return to the embassy to sort out the assassination attempts. The film then throws a huge curve ball when Li makes a joke with Silva as he boards the plane: "Say hi to your mother for me."

It seems like a cheeky meta reference to Saturday Night Live's "Mark Wahlberg Talks to Animals" sketch, but when the plane departs the full plan comes into focus. We see a mysterious Russian cell, assumed to possess the nuclear material, reveal a tracking program that has unearthed Overwatch's secret location in Indocarr. The cell is headed by a high-ranking official Vera (Natasha Goubskaya) whose son was among those killed at the beginning of the film because of Overwatch's bad intelligence. When she gives the green light, assassins murder Overwatch.

Helpless as he hears the killing spree over his communications link, Silva finally comprehends how the scheme has played out. With the plane in mid-air, Li confesses to Alice that he's actually a triple agent; he was activated by the Russians to start this hunt for the radioactive material, and trick the Americans into transferring him, all so Overwatch's location could be exposed.

Silva's realization comes too late, because all he can do now is watch the departing plane, where Li attacks everyone in order to reach Alice, his final target. After admitting to his superiors how his team got played, Silva sets out to find Li and exact his own revenge.

In theaters now, director Peter Berg's Mile 22 stars Mark Wahlberg, John Malkovich, Lauren Cohan, Iko Uwais, Ronda Rousey and CL.

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