12 Strong: 2018 Rated R
“12 Strong” is a film about redemption. It is a film about the underdog overcoming unimaginable odds to attain their goal. It is a film about patriotism and the unbelievable toll war takes on the soldier’s family. It is a film about sacrifice. “12 Strong” is frankly a storytelling of heroes.
The movies stars Chris Helmsworth (of Thor and Avenger fame) as Capt. Mitch Nelson. He is a relatively unexperienced leader of 12 green berets from ODA 595 tasked with the daunting mission of retaliation for the 9/11 attacks. Their codename: Task Force Dagger. Their mission: To capture the Taliban stronghold Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif. They must enter Afghanistan through Uzbekistan soliciting the help of wary Uzbek warlord General Dostum (Navid Neghaban). He has been fighting the Taliban for a decade and has all the local knowledge and strategy Nelson and his men need to take the Taliban city. The terrain is treacherous and cannot be accessed by normal means. General Dostum describes Afghanistan as “a graveyard of empires.” Our heroes are going to have to navigate this unforgiving landscape on horseback. As if this is not impossible enough, the mission must be completed in 3 weeks before the winter freeze. Task Force Dagger sets off on horseback with a suspicious warlord, his ragtag loyalist fighters, and some key US bombers to right a wrong. Armed with instinct and bravery, against all odds Task Force Dagger descends upon the enemy.
Helmsworth is very good in this dramatic role. His portrayal of Capt. Mitch Nelson has you rooting for him throughout the entire movie. He is constantly underestimated, and continually must prove himself. Whether it is front of his two superiors Col. Mulholland (William Fichtner) and Lt. Col. Bowers (Rob Riggle) vying to “win” this mission from his other more experienced teams or tested by the suspicious warlord General Dostum. The Dostum interactions are terrific in that they show that mentor and mentee relationship. Dostum saw the promise in Nelson as a leader and began to show him the warlord playbook he had put together over decades of fighting the Taliban. Nelson’s team of Hal Spenser (Michael Shannon), wisecracking Sam Diller (Michael Pena) and Ben Milo (Trevante Rhodes of “Moonlight” fame) show the comradery and trust that must make-up all special forces teams. Sacrifice of themselves for the greater good rings true throughout the entire film.
Another common theme that is touched upon in the film is Capt. Nelson and Hal Spenser having to tell their families that they will be going back to war……again. It shows the straining relationship that is created with every deployment within the family dynamic. Nelson goes on to do something that soldiers never do. He promises his wife that he will return to her. His steadfast belief in his promise is seen in his refusal to write his “death letter” to her should he not return. Captain Nelson laments his choice stating “It’s a hell of a thing we do…..We Love our family and then leave them to go to war.”
“12 Strong” is not a film that goes into the deeper discussion and ramifications of the US prolonged involvement in Afghanistan. This is not the focus of the film. Its purpose is to tell a little-known story of heroism in a chaotic time after 9/11. It gives us a first-person view of the sacrifice our military make for our freedom every day. “12 Strong” gives us the opportunity to respect and cheer for men that were up against incredible odds. Men who became Heroes. I loved “12 Strong.” I thought that it was action-packed throughout the entire film. Although it did sometimes have that “video game” impossibility feel to it, the action came quick and left me cheering at the end. Anyone that leaves this film will get an increased sense of American Pride. I give it a solid 3 out of 4 stars.