Directors: Fabio Guaglione and Fabio Resinaro
Cast: Armie Hammer, Tom Cullen, Annabelle Wallis, Clint Dyer, Geoff Bell, Juliet Aubrey, Inés Piñar Mille
Running Time: 1:46
Release Date: 4/7/17 (limited)
Review by Mark Dujsik | April 6, 2017
The story of Mine is divided in two. The movie presents a story of survival, and survival has a different quality in each half. At first, it's a matter of uncertainty for a man in a situation where survival seems unlikely. The second half sees survival, oddly, as a form of therapy.
There's considerable tension in the movie's first section, which sees a Marine sniper trapped in a Middle Eastern desert after a crisis of conscience interrupts his mission. The sniper is Mike (Armie Hammer), and he refuses to pull the trigger on an apparent target. The man, suspected of being a higher-up in a terrorist organization, gets out of a vehicle that's the wrong color. Mike is too far away to make a positive identification, and the man seems to be the father-of-the-groom at a wedding.
Mike bails, and he and his spotter Tommy (Tom Cullen) escape. After five days of walking through the sand to a village that will serve as an extraction point, Mike steps on a landmine.
If he takes his foot off of the trigger, the mine will likely explode. Tommy helps to prove that in a scene that directors Fabio Guaglione and Fabio Resinaro (calling themselves "Fabio and Fabio") play as morbid comedy—with Tommy blindly walking backwards and shouting possible final lines while the director show close-ups of his feet hitting the sand—until the explosion renders him at the thighs. Mike only steps on his mine while trying to move forward to help his buddy.
A later sequence gives us a montage of moments when Mike has made similar missteps throughout his life, although none of those other moments really fit in with the forward momentum of a selfless act as we see here. That's part of the problem of turning Mike's predicament into some kind of trial-by-fire therapy session, although a bigger part is how the screenplay (written by the directors) uses a literal landmine as an excuse to show a bunch of metaphorical ones.
As to the specifics of the situation, the commander in charge of Mike's unit doesn't offer much in the way of help, except to suggest that he attempt a method that only, as Mike observes, seems to work in the movies. The commander also points out that, the older a mine is, the more likely it is to fail to detonate. After doing some quick math about the number of conflicts in the area and the timeframe of those conflicts, the commander estimates that the landmine Mike is currently standing on has a 7 percent chance of failure.
The commander also points out that a rescue team cannot reach him by helicopter because of sandstorms in the area. A convoy will be passing him in 52 hours, if he can make it that long.
The expected problems arise. Water is low. The temperatures at night plummet, and there are wild dogs looking for food. The battery on his radio is low, and the replacement batteries are in the pocket of Tommy's uniform.
The solutions are either resourceful or contrived. Mike uses a solar generator for temporary power for the radio, but then a man from the nearby village happens upon the area. He's named Berber (Clint Dyer), and he used to collect mines from this field to sell on the black market, because his family is poor. Berber becomes a sort of accidental philosopher in his conversations with Mike, one of which counters every statement from the Marine with that question of child-like curiosity: "Why?"
That's the crux here: Why is Mike in the Marines, fighting a war about which he has doubts and abandoning a girlfriend (played by Annabelle Wallis) at home in the process? The movie has an answer, and as in any armchair psychoanalysis, there is simply one answer to explain it all.
The manner in which Guaglione and Resinaro get to that answer is a matter of constant obfuscation and distraction. As Mike spends more and more time in the desert, his physical and mental state deteriorate to the point that he begins to have delusions—of Tommy being alive, of a ghost in the desert (a character whose existence he would be ignorant of when that character first appears, which adds an additional layer of contrivance to the whole affair), of heart monitors in a hospital room, of a man throwing punches for no apparent reason. The picture we eventually obtain of Mike is one of an angry man, eager to fight, and of a man far too desperate to be loved, dubbing himself a chivalric knight for his girlfriend.
Much of the movie hinges on Hammer's performance, and he's solid throughout, despite the constant diversions from the reality of Mike's situation. He's also as effective as he can be in the movie's scenes of delusion, but there's only so much a performer can do when he's called to punch at the air when any kind of movement could spell certain doom.
It's not quite believable, but Guaglione and Resinaro abandon believability in favor of allegory once Mine becomes about the character's psychology. When it becomes a matter of oversimplified therapy, the situation doesn't just lose suspense. It loses credibility.
Copyright © 2017 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.
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