MOVIE REVIEW: Mine
“MINE”-- 2 STARS
From “127 Hours” and “Castaway” to the likes of “Buried" and "Moon” and dozens in between, isolated survival films have an immense draw. Our self-preservation instincts kick in and we, as the audience, cannot help but hypothetically put ourselves in the same conundrum as the main character. Often these films delve into the preciousness of the life and dabble in the “what does it all mean” direction to pull even more thought and emotion. A few metaphors dipped in symbolism make for nice touches. Regrettably, the peril grinder of “Mine” pounds its not-so-thinly-veiled metaphors repeatedly and insufferably into the ground.
The intriguing life-or-death quandary of “Mine” surrounds the pressure-sensitive and often-buried titular explosive devices that have claimed more legs on battlefields than ogling men have in Hollywood. The unlucky SOB frozen in place after presumably stepping on one is U.S. Marine sniper Mike Stevens, played by Armie Hammer. Fleeing pursuers after an assassination attempt in undisclosed North Africa with his chatterbox spotter Tommy Madison (Tom Cullen of “The Other Half” and “Downton Abbey”), Mike, and his left foot in particular, have to remain in place or pop goes the weasel with a bang instead of a laugh.
This grave predicament puts the soldier and his embattled conscience at the mercy of the harsh natural elements and the growing hours he is stranded until extraction assistance can arrive. Troubleshooting fails and conservation of energy and resources become key. He finds himself aided and berated by an unsympathetic and abstractly philosophical local bedouin (Clint Dwyer). The hallucinations from thirst and exhaustion show up soon after and hit Mike hard, sending his mind racing through manifested glimpses of his abusive upbringing, embodied by his late father (Geoff Bell) and the incomplete future he longs for with his fiancee Jenny (Annabelle Wallis of the upcoming "King Arthur: Legend of the Sword" and "The Mummy").
In a nearly solo performance, the 30-year-old Hammer comports himself impressively, continuing in the prime of his career to wash away the stain of “The Lone Ranger” with recent supporting turns in “Nocturnal Animals” and “The Birth of a Nation.” Until Ben Wheatley’s hotly anticipated “Free Fire” arrives later in April, this film may stand as his best lead performance to date. Searing in the sun through shooting on the Canary Island of Fuerteventura in Spain, Hammer convincingly weathers the mental and physical wringer of this character with imposing presence and stern power. He’s never the problem with “Mine.”
The flaws come from the film’s effusive route of philosophy, which hammer (no pun intended) a “take the next step” mantra and every possible thematic comparison possible for kneeling. The directing and writing team of Fabio Guaglione and Fabio Resinaro take this harrowing scenario and pile on blunt allegories and oppressively obvious analogies with little limitation and zero subtlety. The angular photography tricks of Sergi Villanova and the overwrought musical score of Luca Balboni and Andrea Bonini cannot mask the mounting hokeyness and cliche that degrade several thriving moments of raw intensity and Hammer’s steely performance.
LESSON #1: LANDMINES SUCK-- A 2004 report from UNICEF estimated that as many as 20,000 people are killed or injured by landmines every year. A Marine understands the risk, but too many civilian incidents occur in uncleared areas away from combat.
LESSON #2: HAVE A REASON TO SURVIVE-- With a beautiful woman waiting for him at home and family to honor, Mike has his mental stimuli for the goal to make it out alive. Those motivators are essential in a survival situation.
LESSON #3: SUFFERING FINDS MORE SUFFERING-- The notion of Lesson #2 is challenged by the many variables of adversity in survival situations. The draining carnal torture brought upon by the hours (and days) Mike is stranded multiplies into the mental anguish that can be as painful as the physical cost. These situations don’t commonly turn out very pretty.