For a significant portion of the new movie “Mine,” a U.S. soldier stands in the desert with one foot on a landmine. The soldier, Mike (Armie Hammer), is forced to wait 52 hours with his foot on the mine, unable to movie his foot for fear that the mine might explode. It is an intriguing setup for a film and the execution is largely successful. It does, however, have some weaker aspects.

Written and directed by Fabio Resinaro and Fabio Guaglione, “Mine” shows us Mike slowly losing his grip on reality as he goes without food, without water, and largely without sleep. At night, he has to deal with the cold and wild animals. During the day, he has to face the scorching heat. And throughout he has to keep his foot depressed on the explosive just beneath the sand or risk losing his life. Mike begins to have hallucinations as his past mixes with his present.

In these moments when Mike isn’t sure what is real and what is imagined, the movie is wonderful. Mike, there in the sand, is where “Mine” succeeds. When it slips into the character’s past to show us his uneasy relationship with his parents (Geoff Bell and Juliet Aubrey) or his relationship with his girlfriend, Jenny (Annabelle Wallis), the movie falters, causing slack in the tension which otherwise makes it work.

As “Mine” progresses and Mike weakens, more and more the film cuts back to his past. In and of itself, the notion of doing so makes sense – Mike is losing his grip on reality and thinks back on other moments in his life. Doing this allows us in the audience to see those moments as well and get a better idea of who he is, and Mike certainly did not have the easiest of childhoods. That said, “Mine” doesn’t have much else to offer; it begins and ends there – Mike did not have the easiest of childhoods and the way his childhood went affected his adult life.

The best the movie can do to make it seem more important is to suggest that throughout his life, Mike has been stepping on landmines.  Rather than coming off as deep and philosophical, the suggestion feels trite and more than a little silly.  Certainly, this history is important to Mike but that never translates into being important to the audience beyond the fact that these issues occurred. It isn’t enough for the movie to spend that much time on it.

No, not when the story is so tense in the present. Not when Mike is having crazy conversations with a local Berber (Clint Dyer) who walks through the mine field to visit Mike. Not when Mike has concerns for the partner who started this mission with him, Tommy (Tom Cullen). Not when there are animals attacking Mike. Not when he has to get his radio to work. Not when he has to figure out how to parcel out his water. Not when there’s a sandstorm approaching. Not when he’s growing ever more tired. Not when there is an explosive device right underneath his foot.

In its best moments, “Mine” is an incredibly intense thriller, one which shows the fortitude within this one man as he fights against the world in a myriad of forms. Hammer is great here, offering up the true horror that Mike must feel. But, in its worst moments, “Mine” feels like little more than a hallucination, a mirage of a movie which doesn’t have enough for the hero to do in the present and so it continually slips into the past to pad its runtime.

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photo credit: Well Go USA