12 Strong is a war drama film directed by Nicolai Fuglsig and is based on Doug Stanton's non-fiction book Horse Soldiers. The film stars Chris Hemsworth, Michael Shannon, Michael Peña, Navid Negahban, and Trevante Rhodes.
The Story/The Direction:
This film tells the story of CIA paramilitary officers, U.S. Special Forces, and USAF Combat Controllers who were sent to Afghanistan immediately after the September 11 attacks. While there, they have to work with General Abdul Rashid Dostum (Negahban) to stop Taliban forces. This unit is led by Captain Mitch Nelson (Hemsworth) but as this area was unknown to his team, they were lost when they arrived. They had to ride horses because it was the only way to maneuver on this unfamiliar landscape of sand and mountains which none of them had experience doing. In addition, these men had to work with the Afghan unit, the Northern Alliance to learn to fight Afghan-style to survive.
This seems like a story made for Hollywood to film and director had to recreate this story in a realistic way. Coming from photojournalism and TV commercials, he is able to make New Mexico look like what Afghanistan is assumed to look like. The action scenes are well done and tension-filled as much as a modern warfare film is expected to be. The story is a good one that
The 12-man team has Hemsworth leading them as Nelson as he has charisma and his physical presence makes his character feel authentic. The rest of the cast are quite decent and make these characters better than they should be. Shannon, Peña, and Rhodes are the highlights doing the best they can with the material given them. Among the men in the crew, there is a message of brotherhood between them.
While played well by the cast, the main issue is that characters are very cookie-cutter. These are men that most have seen before. Hemsworth is the G.I. Joe type and Shannon is the "old man going on one last outing." They all left their families behind to defend the country on a secret mission. As far as character development, that's pretty much it. This film also tries to inject the idea of "not all Muslims or Afghans are bad," which is a good message, especially when discussing 9/11. However, the execution is lazy and it gives a sugar-coated version of that message. The film is overly long at 130 minutes with numerous scenes that were the same as ones before it. Each battle scene, though well produced, is almost the exact same. They start, they struggle, they are reminded that without their efforts this mission cannot be accomplished, and then they prevail. When this happens in the final battle, it feels weak as they have to be reminded of something they should have learned the first battle.
This film checks off every box for every modern war film and while it does well on the production side of them, it fails at the other parts. This makes the film feel fairly cliche and unoriginal even if the true story is a good one. In all, this film does a decent job of tributing to the men who were actually involved in this mission. However, stories like these require substance or they'll fall to the waist side, which is what this film does. This average film is fairly forgettable as it lacks has a very little context. It is one that is not worth seeing in theatres but perhaps as one time watch on television if someone randomly finds it.
Rating: 2.5/5.0 bowties
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