Directors: Fabio Guaglione, Fabio Resinaro
Writers: Fabio Guaglione (screenplay), Fabio Resinaro (screenplay)
Stars: Armie Hammer, Annabelle Wallis, Tom Cullen
Fabio Guaglione and Fabio Resinaro have given us something of a mixed bag in their new psychological thriller Mine. It follows the trials and tribulations of Mike (Armie Hammer); a soldier tasked with assassinating the leader of a terrorist cell. Things don’t quite as they were planned, forcing him to face the harsh reality of both his inner demons and the arid landscape that surrounds him.
The film opens right in the midst of Mike and fellow soldier come best friend Tommy’s (Tom Cullen) covert mission. The pair are seen laying low, awaiting on their target arriving, high up on a rocky plateau, whilst overlooking the desert below. It doesn’t take long for the action to heat up, with two very different parties meeting for what appears to be an impromptu wedding. One of them, a ragtag group of civilians, arriving at the rendezvous point on foot, whilst the other arrives from the opposite direction in a series of vehicles, just about every one of them armed to the teeth. Mike, a sniper, has been tasked with assassinating the leader of the terrorist cell, but when the moment arrives, he just can’t seem to pull the trigger as his target shares a tender moment with his new bride. This moment of weakness proves to be a rather bad decision by Mike, but considering they were badly outnumbered, I doubt shooting the man would’ve changed much.
Soon after their cover is blown, alerting the small band of heavily armed men below, when Mike’s rifle glints in the blinding sunlight after he puts it down in frustration at his failure to take the shot. A quick chase scene plays out as the two soldiers hastily retreat down from the plateau, with Tommy smashing his GPS device after the pair are forced to jump from a rocky ravine. This proves to be a killer blow to their hopes of a quick escape and the catalyst for what’s to come afterwards. Just when they appear to be surrounded, Mike’s quick thinking provides a much needed distraction before a massive, approaching, sand storm scares their pursuers off and engulfs them as they attempt to head to a new extraction point. Mike spots a couple of lonely looking figures making their way across the desert during the wild storm and they use them as a directional aid, before the film unsubtly hints at the fate awaiting them with a metal mine warning sign blowing off into the storm. When the storm clears, the two make their way out across the desert again in the middle of the energy zapping, afternoon heat towards what they hope is the locals village.
This short moment of relative calm allows the two men a degree of respite as Tommy discusses his life back home and family. Then a rather unlikely and highly convenient moment occurs. The metal sign from earlier lands right at Mike’s feet, which of course causes him to tread just a little more carefully, especially when he mentions that 33 million mines (surely a little on the high side?) have been buried in the area during the war. Tommy, who’s just been discussing phoning his young four year old son and the prospects of tucking into a granita is having none of his friends new found caution and is in no mood for turning back to almost certainly die of thirst. This leads us directly into the next scene where, after being re-energised with a drink of water, he walks backwards with idiotic bravado, and rather predictably, right into a mine. Mike in shock at what’s just transpired, appears to step on a mine himself, naturally causing him to freeze, rendering him utterly helpless and forcing him to become a witness to his gravely injured friends suicide.
What follows is a surprisingly riveting hour of entertainment as we watch Mike, stranded in the same position, struggle to survive alone in the harsh desert climate, braving the searing heat during the day and the equally bone chilling cold under darkness. Unable to move an inch for fear of the unexploded mine detonating, Mike meets an interesting local that quickly assumes the name Berber (Clint Dyer); who on his numerous, zig-zagging visits to the minefield, switches from gloating about the situation to providing amateur philosophy in equal measures. He also has to cope with a couple of nightly visits from a group of particularly ravenous wild dogs that are intent on ripping him to shreds; a massive sand storm that threatens to knock him off balance; several bouts of psychosis like hallucinations from his troubled past induced from severe dehydration and sleep deprivation; and towards the end, he even has to face an onslaught of gunfire, as enemy soldiers discover his position and move in for the kill.
I have to say it wasn’t a film full to the brim with incredible performances by any means, but a degree of credit must be given to Armie Hammer who put in a very good showing as Mike. He effectively carried the film for the overwhelming majority of the running time, which I’d reckon from about half an hour in essentially became something of a one man show, as his character battled increasingly difficult physical and mental hardship in the isolation of the desert. Clint Dyer was impressive too as the cheeky, enigma that was Berber. He drifted in and out of the story, but added an interesting element nonetheless. Whilst Tom Cullen did ok in the earlier moments as Tommy, I didn’t feel like the film gave the character anywhere near enough time to be developed before unceremoniously killing him off. The death was a little strange too, though probably necessary, it has to be said. I mean, fair enough, he probably would’ve bled out eventually, as Mike couldn’t move, but he literally went from discussing his young son one minute to shooting himself in the head the next. It felt a little rushed to me, but hey ho.
I have to say I was pretty impressed with some of the visuals at times. There was some pretty haunting wide shots of Mike alone in the desert that really helped to emphasise the precariousness of his situation. The approaching sand storms looked ominously realistic and the claustrophobic darkness during his night time encounters with the dogs was very well visualised and helped crank up the tension. I’d love to talk about the score, but I honestly can’t remember it. That would mean it was either nonexistent, fairly rubbish and unmemorable or I’ve developed temporary amnesia an forgotten it’s brilliance.
Would I recommend it? Yeah, I probably would. It’s not the greatest film, but it does a decent job of keeping you entertained throughout, which considering it’s about a guy who kneels in the same position for an hour is pretty impressive. It does begin to lag a little in the final act and I could see some getting bored with it, but I stuck with it and the twist towards the end was pretty neat.