Reel Reviews | 12 Strong

by Charles Kirkland Jr.

Chris Hemsworth rocks his new Thor beard as a modern day military superhero in 12 Strong.

On September 11, 2001, Captain Mitch Nelson (Chris Hemsworth) fights to get his team back so he can lead them into battle in Afghanistan against the Taliban and al-Qaeda who have just launched an attack on the United States. Partnered with a General Abdul Dosten, Captain Nelson and his team are thrust into the front of the Afghan war. The prickly Dosten outfits the team with horses to ride in order to make their way to completing their mission. Their mission, take Mazar-i Sharif, the major stronghold city of the Taliban to cripple their ability to operate.

12 Strong is based on the book “Horse Soldiers” which documents the classified true story of these events. While the movie is based on a true story, it is as formulaic a war movie as any has ever been. It borders on being an old-fashioned cowboys and Indians style western. The bad guys wear black and the 12 good guys (Dirty Dozen, anyone?) wear fatigues. While we know that the Taliban and al-Qaeda are bad (the opening montage details it), the point is hammered home by showing the murder of a mother who teaches their girls to read and do the math. If that’s not enough, General Dosten has to tell a story about how Razzan, the Taliban leader they are tracking (the same who executed the mother), also killed his wife and children. The problem with a movie that is so over the top, is that it nearly impossible to accept the truth of the movie. The end credit scene which gives the details and results of the classified mission is a necessary evil for providing validity to the movie.

12 Strong is the first big budget movie by director Nicolai Fuglsig. It seems that he has studied at producer Jerry Bruckheimer’s school of directing though. Tons of explosions, slow-motion running scenes, and a brass-heavy soundtrack are prominent in the film. The Norwegian director has nothing on his upcoming schedule but surely Bruckheimer can get him a job on the next Transformers movie.

Hemsworth and crew are adequate in the movie but Strong will best be remembered as the follow-up movie for Trevante Rhodes who played Black in Moonlight. Rhodes plays Ben Milo, the hardcore warrior who gets paired up with an Afghan child. The child is tasked with taking care of Milo but of course, Milo ends up caring for the boy. Milo’s growth is predictable but still emotionally powerful.

Rated R for war violence and language throughout, 12 Strong is a hyper-patriotic war drama that is heavy on emotion and violence and low on intelligence. Even though it is based on a true story, it feels like it could not be what it is which is the power of the movie. It short, it plays like fake news.

Grade: C