The movie ’12 Strong’ features some prominent actors like Chris Hemsworth, Jack Kesy, Michael Pena, Thad Luckinbill and Michael Shannon. ’12 Strong’ is a war drama capturing the experience of soldiers in Afghanistan after the 9/11 terror attack. With an average 4 star rating, the film tells the story of the Special Forces unit with clarity and raw emotion. ’12 Strong’ creates an image of American soldiers as invincible but fails to capture the authenticity of the war on terror that ensued after the 9/11 terror attack.
The movies begin with Chris Hemsworth starring as Mitch Nelson having breakfast with his daughter and wife while watching the ‘Today’ show on Television. The show is airing the attack on the Twin Towers and Nelson, retired from active duty goes back to his Commander, Col. Max Bowers (Rob Riggle) insisting on getting his job back. The Colonel at first refuses, but intense Warrant Officer Hal Spenser (Michael Shannon) convinces him otherwise.
Nelson leads his Special Forces Unit into Afghanistan, one month after the 9/11 attack their mission being to assist Uzbek warlord to defeat the Taliban and prevent another terror attack. They were airlifted to Afghanistan in a Chinook helicopter and the ‘real’ work beings after landing.
Nelson and his unit have to make uneasy alliances with the Afghan warlords like General Dostrum (Navid Negahban), a relationship bound by a fragile thread of trust. The alliance with the leader of the Northern Alliance leads to some victories for Nelson and his team, and they recapture a village and breach Tiangi Gap, which serves as a route for Mazar-i-Sharif. Dostrum does a good job portraying a man living a life riddled with conflict.The Special Forces Unit takes down the villain, Said Taghmaoui, whose cruelty is captured when he executes a woman in front of her two weeping daughters. The Unit succeeds in bringing down Said and toppling Afghanistan’s ability to serve as an AL Qaeda training ground for its troops.
The writers of the film, Ted Tally and Peter Craig do a good job with the dialogue, but the film has some restraint especially considering how much more could have possible to capture the vengeance of the American military so soon after an attack. Nicolai Fuglsig, the movie director, covered the Kosovo War as a photojournalist which may explain the restraint in the film. He,
however, does a decent job with the action scenes of executed air strikes, flipping trucks and tossed rubble.
When it comes to acting, Milo, Diller, and Spenser do an exemplary job. Milo (Trevante Rhodes), the boy who sucks lollipop in the film and ends up as the bothersome local kid gives his role and the film life while making the film more ‘real.’ Spenser showcases the ideal character of the military in his relentless loyalty to his captain. His intensity gives the audience some emotions to connect and resonate with and that reflect their ‘imagined’ emotional state after the attack. Diller (Michael Pena) plays the fidgety yet selfless role with such finesse and gives the movie a somewhat humorous aspect.
The movie does have a sense of finality but could have been far much better. In terms of the representation of the fight against terrorism, the film seems to suggest that eliminating Al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan brings an end to the issue of terrorism but this is not the case. It does a bland job of highlighting American heroism mostly because war is never a black and white issue. The casualties of war include more than the dead and despite heroism, the story never really ends like it does in the movies. The film summarizes the story of American Soldiers working with ‘good’ Afghan people to rid the country of Talibans and shows them accomplish this but the reality is far from this. On the positive side, the movie shows the effects of war wounds on mental health which is a real concern for military personnel.
My recommendation to potential viewers would be to lower their expectations and enjoy the simplicity of this film. It does capture American heroism well but fails to give due credit to the real struggles of the context and time it was meant to capture. Potential viewers should watch this movie for the simpler version of events after 9/11 but anyone looking for real, deep, philosophical connections to the real context should steer clear.