On September 11th, 2001, the United States of America endured an attack on the World Trade Center in New York City. A month later, a 12-member US Army Green Beret team was chosen to be sent on a mission to Afghanistan. Upon arriving in Afghanistan, the task force joined General Abdul Rashid Dostum to regain Taliban cities. Due to the terrain and distance needed to reach their destination, the 12 members were forced to ride horses, even if they needed to master the skill overnight. Starring as Mitch Nelson is Chris Hemsworth, a man who is eager to join in the combat but has never experienced it. Starring alongside Hemsworth is Michael Shannon, Michael Pena, and Trevante Rhodes as men who risked their lives just weeks after the attack in New York City.
I have seen plenty of war films and only a few really impact me. Last year’s Hacksaw Ridge by Mel Gibson really moved me. Saving Private Ryan and Full Metal Jacket are other films that impressed me instantly upon first viewing. Although I admire the craft and the determination when making a war film, it doesn’t stand as one of my favorite genres. I found 12 Strong to fall into the place of generic war films that doesn’t feel like anything new. The story is an important one to tell and deserves recognition for the heroic acts of the people involved after the attacks on September 11th, but it lacked many moments for it stand out from the rest.
There was a surprising relationship between Chris Hemsworth and Navid Negahban, who plays General Dostum that made the movie have some authentic moments. Their early banter about the land and how to travel to their destination made for an intriguing relationship to watch. As it developed throughout the movie, I increasingly found their relationship to be the best thing about the movie. It was an endearing relationship that was a breath of fresh air when it comes to relationships built in war films. I truly felt that both members would always have each other’s backs. They were from different parts of the world, but their connection steadily became the highlight of the film.
12 Strong does take awhile to get going as most of the film is focused on setting up relationships and explaining where the next destination is. Early in the film characters are set up and backstory is provided for most of them. Scenes involving family members and their departures add depth to their story, however, it doesn’t last long enough for me to feel invested in their journey. The emotions for each of the main characters quickly disappear after they in arrive in Afghanistan.
After the movie gets going and the 12 soldiers ventured closer to their destination, the action started to pick up and it became clear why the story was important to tell. The movie showcased the moments of war in a gritty manner that really tested the men. Moments of air strikes and gunfire added for some tense moments that really brought out the genuine moments. Those moments are paired nicely with outstanding cinematography that utilizes its set location in a way that puts you in the battle.
I found 12 Strong to have some impressive moments in its developing relationships and some of the action scenes at the end, but it lacked raw emotions to move it past the feeling of being generic. It is a great looking film that provides an authentic look at what the soldiers went through just weeks after enduring a horrific attack on American soil. Their bravery and love for the country was a story that deserved to be told. It was a powerful story but unfortunately it felt all too familiar at times.
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12 Strong runs 2 hours 12 minutes and is rated R for war violence and language throughout.