Studio: Well Go USA
Directed by Fabio Guaglione and Fabio Resinaro
Apr 10, 2017
A war movie turned survival thriller, Mine has a premise so high-concept and compelling you’d assume it would be hard to screw up. A pair of US Marines are on a mission to assassinate a terrorist leader in the middle of the North African desert. After they blow their cover and are forced to retreat into the desert to await extraction, they wander into an old mine field. One of them gets blown to bits and the other realizes he’s triggered a mine, forcing him to keep his left foot rooted to the ground to keep it from detonating. With the extraction team still 52 hours away, the lone soldier must combat environmental and psychological extremes to survive.
Pretty cool, right? As set-ups for these kinds of one-man, fixed location survival stories go, Mine strikes a tricky balance. The premise is less outlandish than something like Buried but still pulpier and, well, cooler (for lack of a better word) than something like 127 Hours. Unfortunately, the rawness of its premise can’t even be maintained beyond the script stage, let alone to the finished product. The trouble begins in the opening minutes with protagonist Mike Stevens – played by Armie Hammer – running down the checklist of soldier clichés: wife who’s mad that he’s on another tour, moral doubts about his mission, a singular look of grim determination. Faring even worse is British actor Tom Cullen as his doomed partner. Cullen’s charms – on full display in Andrew Haigh’s lovely 2011 film, Weekend – are buried under an unconvincing Texas accent and a deluge of sidekick banter so tiresome that his getting blown up is almost a relief. The first fifteen minutes Hammer spends on the mine are the most compelling in the film, allowing the movie to indulge in the resourcefulness porn that is the genre’s primary reason for existing. This is also the brief window in which some of the choices made by the improbably-named directing team of Fabio Guaglione and Fabio Resinaro are interesting rather than hackneyed and obvious. The music is minimal, minor sound effects are used to draw focus and the audience can figure out what Stevens is doing for themselves rather than having him narrate his actions to himself.
At that point, Mine is at a fork in the road and it chooses all the wrong paths. Rather than keeping Stevens isolated it gives him other people to talk to, both real and imagined. That those people also happen to be a wisdom-dispensing Berber and Stevens’ abusive alcoholic father make the choice even more egregious. There’s also the sappy saved phone messages from his wife and the dopey metaphor drawn between Stevens being unable to move on from his past hang ups being literalized by his predicament, which would have been a more poignant concept if the film didn’t have characters explicitly say it multiple times. It’s hard not to feel bad for Armie Hammer through all of this. After the failure of The Lone Ranger, he seems in danger of being relegated to the Handsome Interchangeable White Guy Drawer along with Sam Worthington and Jai Courtney. This feels like a bit of a waste given that he’s the most charming thing about Free Fire, hitting theaters in just two weeks. In Mine, he’s asked to do little more than endure suffering, like Leonardo DiCaprio in The Revenant, except less interestingly shot.
Author rating: 2/10
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