12 Strong: A Great War Story that Lacks Depth
Movie Review by Anirudh Madhav (Rocheston Certified Movie Critic)
During the end credit roll of the film 12 Strong, it is mentioned that the 12-member team sent to Afghanistan for taking on Taliban post 9/11 terror attacks on World Trade Centre completed their mission within a month, while the US government had predicted they would take two years. The movie is an all-out tribute to American patriotism but sugar coats the death toll in the ravages of war.
A team of 12 Special Task Soldiers are sent to Northern Afghanistan for taking on the Taliban. Based on a true story, adapted from the book, Horse Soldiers, 12 Strong focuses on the heroic act of the forces along with a local warlord General Dostum (Navid Negahban) in rooting out the Taliban through air strikes.
Captain Mitch Nelson (Chris Hemsworth) leads the forces comprising of Hal Spencer (Michael Shannon), Sam Diller (Michael Pena) and Ben Milo (Trevante Rhodes). Apart from the solid cast and performance, the movie has less action sequences in the first half and they end up getting repetitive over the course of the film. But there are few exciting action scenes shot in air that will leave you spellbound.
The movie, shot in New Mexico and California, fails to bring out the feel of rugged, harsh and inhabitable landscape of the Afghan territory, which so many films have done successfully in the past. Director Nicolai Fuglsig brings us a mediocre war movie, which is slow in its pace. But Nicolai does manage to showcase American heroism at its best in the last 30-minute sequence.
12 Strong is a well-filmed war movie with a great cast, a decent soundtrack and screenplay. However, it ignores the civilian toll the mission took and in turn manages to sugar coat the causalities focusing on the bond between Ben and an Afghan boy (Read as American soldiers have a good heart). The gun battle sequences appear artificial at times especially when the Taliban soldiers seem to be running towards the American soldiers only to get gunned down while they tactically hide behind rocky landscape.
The dialogues in 12 Strong is another weakness of the film and don’t leave much impact. The only dialogues that stand out is during the conversation between General Dostum and Captain Mitch. The climax that captures the heroic battle of the brave soldiers in the midst of burning Russian tanks and fallen Taliban soldiers is well-shot and makes up for the flaws in the film.
The film efficiently portrays a small group of special forces, who were successful in the mission, but it would have been far more intriguing to watch the failed effort by US forces to mobilize the troops in Afghanistan in the following years.