Throughout its first act, writer-directors Fabio Guaglione and Fabio Resinaro’s Mine establishes a stripped-down aesthetic that’s in line with the film’s sparsely populated desert setting and small cast of characters. Following a straightforward yet tense action sequence involving the botched military mission by a sniper, Mike (Armie Hammer), and his spotter, Tommy (Tom Cullen), the film swiftly exits the gray areas of wartime morality and heads toward the more comforting interiority and intimacy of Mike’s solipsistic solo therapy session as he waits over two days for his rescue.
After Mike and Tommy’s escape from their near-death encounter, which began when Mike was spotted by enemies while hesitating to shoot a possible terrorist, the two men wander the desert in search of the nearest town. Eventually they discover that they’ve walked into a minefield, and while fate isn’t very kind to Tommy, Mike survives by stopping immediately when he steps onto a mine, knowing that his next step may be his last. It’s a transitional moment in the film that’s ironically both the apex of its suspense and the unfortunate pivot point toward the hollow, overly sentimental soul-searching that sluggishly plays out over the last two acts.
Once Mike survives the inexorable lashings of Murphy’s Law, from being told by his commander that he must wait 52 hours until his rescue, to holding his ground amid a sand storm that causes his radio to be blown out of reach, Mine shifts suddenly and awkwardly from a tight, minimalist survival film to a blunt, unwieldy psychological study that increasingly wears its heart and themes on its sleeve. At this point, Mike is left only to wait until he’s visited by a slow-witted local man, Berber (Clint Dyer), who’s inexplicably able to speak perfect English and handily provides Mike with the sort of self-ramblings that, while nonsensical and half-baked, manage to keep him sane.
Berber is meant to function like one of Shakespeare’s comic characters, but his mild manner and homespun philosophical reveries make him more akin to Forrest Gump than King Lear’s fool. His simple-minded theorizing leads Mike to reflect on his life, at which point the sniper is plagued by visions of his girlfriend, Jenny (Annabelle Wallis), and flashbacks to his troubled youth with his father (Geoff Bell). As the once external conflict of the film is internalized, the subtext clumsily bursts through the surface as Mike literally punches the air while thinking of his physically abusive father who abandoned him. When he later dramatically grasps at his girlfriend’s apparition, he arrives at the pat realization that he’s done the same thing to Jenny that his father did to him.
Mine paints only the broadest portrait of Mike’s past. Using an abundance of match cuts, the filmmakers laboriously tie Mike’s current predicament to his emotional stasis, even going so far as to mirror his kneeling position atop the mine with that of his proposal to his girlfriend. This painfully misguided use of the horrors of war in service of a simplistic metaphor for emotional turmoil is troubling enough, but coupled with the film’s overt cultural insensitivity, it’s clear that Mine has absolutely no interest in the dilemmas or after-effects of war and occupation. Rather, it cheaply uses that backdrop as a means to melodramatize the strife of an attractive white man whose banal domestic issues are presented as paramount to the horrifying problems that continue to ravage the very environment in which he’s stuck.