Thursday, February 8, 2018

Movie Review: 12 Strong

The early months of the year are perfect landing ground for a patriotic military movie and this latest film continues this new trend. The movie starts with the terrible news of 9/11 as soldiers watch on the television. Captain Mitch Nelson (Chris Hemsworth) returns to his base where Lt. Colonel Bowers (Rob Riggle) is dealing with the resulting chaos. He commands Captain to stay in his office but his squadron has other ideas. Hal Spencer (Michael Shannon) requests that Mitch rejoin the squad and Bowers agrees. They are shipped out to Afghanistan shortly thereafter where they have to apply to be the squad that will set out on the mission to take a city from the Taliban. Captain Nelson wins the approval of Colonel Mulholland (William Fichtner) and ships out with his team. 

They have to take a flight on a helicopter through the high mountains of Afghanistan with no oxygen and in the freezing cold. They arrive at their destination unhappy and suspicious. They confront men with machine guns only to learn that they are their escort from the CIA Agent Brian (Taylor Sheridan). The agent has to leave and can't stick around to meet with General Dostum (Navid Negahban), their contact in the Northern Alliance of Afghan militias. Dostum confronts Nelson not believing he has the ability to kill but Nelson is determined to prove him wrong. The general gives them six horses splitting up their group but Nelson brings along six men including Sam Diller (Michael Peña). 

With the American bomber jets behind him, General Dostum is encouraged to attack the Taliban but Nelson tries to explain that he needs to be closer to get the right coordinates. They drop bombs but they miss most of the Taliban until Nelson takes the risk and charges in to get the correct coordinates. They send the Taliban into retreat and take the city where Dostum's family was killed by the villainous Mullah Razzan (Numan Acar). They stress how awful the Taliban are killing educated young girls and stoning women who have children out of wedlock. Nelson sends Diller and other troops to cut off the supply route just as Hal Spencer and the remaining group of six including Ben Milo (Trevante Rhodes). The troops have been assigned protectors and Milo has young boy Najeeb (Arshia Mandavi) following him to protect him, though the boy only has a musket.

The government officials are putting pressure on Nelson to complete his mission in the absurd deadline of three weeks and Nelson knows the only way to survive is to win. They push forward and attack Razzan in a town before the city they need to take. Razzan has a giant missile launcher but the Americans have soldiers. General Dostum has backed off worried that if he helps the army win this battle then a rival of his will take the city before he can. However, as the soldiers are struggling under the attack, Dostum shows up to assist. Nelson charges forward in a pretty decent military action scene with the camera following the horses from above and wins the fight. I thought this battle was pretty impressive.

12 Strong follows the trend though it is not nearly my favorite of the other military movies that have come out in January. I don't mind the jingoistic and blind military support of these films and usually, the action is pretty intense. The fact that this film is based on a true story is astonishing and something that I would have never known about if it wasn't in theaters. The story of these men is truly impressive even if the film acknowledges that America is still fighting this war decades later and has wasted tons of resources without much success. The secret true story of the horse soldiers is entertaining enough to enjoy at the theater. 

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