Movie Review - Mine (2017)

This movie is the second film this year about land mines and soldiers having to deal with them for the whole time. The Oscar-nominated pick from Denmark, Land of Mine, was more about the lasting effects of war, whereas this film is more about one person's personal struggle, which is more effective when done the right way. This  movie, written and directed by Fabio Guaglione and Fabio Resinaro, doesn't quite do it the right way. The personal struggle, the emotional challenge is crammed in the last act. It's crammed as such to feel clunky and as if we're all of a sudden being bombarded with all this personal struggle when it should have been layered or sprinkled earlier and throughout the film.

Armie Hammer (The Social Network and The Lone Ranger) stars as Mike Stevens, a sergeant in the army. He's a sniper who is perched atop a desert ridge hidden from view. He's waiting to kill someone, a known terrorist. He's with one other guy, but I have the same problem with the opening to this film as I did to the opening of The Wall (2017), which was theatrically released after this one, yet the opening problem is still the same. How did Mike and his fellow soldier get to be out in the middle of this desert and how is it that the two didn't seem to have much reconnaissance or immediate back-up? Mike has to shoot at a veritable convoy that ended up being armed to the teeth. Did they really think they could shoot at these people and get away all by themselves?

It's a stupid premise for the start of this movie. It's a premise that's contrived and feels very much contrived to isolate Mike in the situation where he becomes trapped and all alone to contend with nature and his own demons. There isn't even much of an attempt to come up with an explanation to get around the contrivance, which wouldn't have been bothersome if the goal of this movie hadn't taken so long to reveal itself, which again crams the last act and last few minutes of this movie with too much.

At first, Mike chooses not to fire at his target. It sets up what could have been a more thoughtful version of American Sniper (2014) where soldiers have to reckon with the idea that not every person in these Middle Eastern countries are our enemies and the way the United States has been fighting the war on terror or wars in the Middle East has only made things worse. Recent films like Sand Castle (2017) and War Machine (2017) have touched upon this idea, but that's not exactly what this movie wants to be.

It wants to be like Buried (2010) or 127 Hours (2010). It wants to be a movie about a man who is physically trapped in one place where he can't move and he's all alone in a desolate area, and he has to figure out how to escape. Instead of being inside a coffin or having one's arm stuck between a boulder and a slot canyon, here Mike is trapped in the desert.

He's walking along when all of a sudden he steps on a land mine just under the sand. He realizes it immediately and he knows if he steps off it, he'll explode, so he has to stand still or at least keep his left foot where it is. If one thinks about it, it's similar to the action flick Speed (1994). In that film, a woman has to keep her foot on the accelerator of a bus or else it would explode. The difference is the bus had to keep moving, whereas Mike has to stay still.

Unfortunately, Mike can't sit down or sleep. He's in the middle of the hot desert with no water or food, and help won't arrive for at least 2 or 3 days. He also can't move from his position, so it becomes an endurance test, an extreme, physical challenge to see. It doesn't trump the endurance test of something like The Revenant (2015), except that movie had opposite environmental conditions.

If that's what Guaglione and Resinaro wanted, that's what they should have let it be. The Revenant didn't attempt to be anything else, which it could have done, given its running time. This movie is significantly shorter by almost a hour, so it doesn't have the time to be an endurance test focusing on loneliness and isolation and a psychological drama that delves into a man's past deconstructing and studying him. It perhaps could have if it had structured things differently. The psychological stuff just feels rushed at the end with not enough space to breathe.

Arguably, the movie needed to be longer or else some things could have been cut. One specific thing that could have gone or been removed is what has been described as the "magical negro." Clint Dyer plays a character called Berber. Pretty much every stereotype Spike Lee laid out about the magical negro is seen in this character. Berber is literally seen shucking and jiving when he first approaches Mike. It's ridiculous and offensive.

Not Rated but contains language and violence.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 46 mins.


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