Verdict: Chris Hemsworth shows the strength of modern warfare.
The topic of 9/11 still remains a sensitive subject and for Chris Hemsworth to be playing the lead in a film about USA's first response to the attack is no small feat. But that's not the only reason that 12 Strong is an impressive tale. If it weren't based on a true story, it would seem unrealistic to see men with guns on horses fight against men armed with missile launchers and tanks. But this actually happened and director Nicolai Fuglsig has told this story as it needed to be done.
What's 12 Strong About:
Captain Mitch Nelson (Chris Hemsworth) has recently retired out of combat duty to an office job for his family but after the attack on the World Trade Centre on September 9, 2001, he decides to get back into action on the field. Mitch Nelson has no previous combat experience but that doesn't stop him from being a fearless leader. He assembles a team of 12 which includes Hal Spenser (Michael Shannon), Sam Diller (Michael Peña), Ben Milo (Trevante Rhodes), Sean Coffers (Geoff Stults), Vern Michaels (Thad Luckinbill), Pat Essex (Austin Hébert), Fred Falls (Austin Stowell), Scott Black (Ben O'Toole), Kevin Jackson (Kenneth Miller), Bill Bennett (Kenny Sheard), and Charles Jones (Jack Kesy).
Their primary mission is to capture a city that is a Taliban stronghold. To do this, they have to gain the trust of General Dostum (Navid Negahban), who makes up one part of the Northern Alliance, an Afghani group fighting against the Taliban. Dostum is the one who will help them navigate and lend his men to fight alongside the Americans.
The action is the real star of this film. 12 Strong also manages to stay relatively objective, taking into consideration the effect of war on both sides. It's more than a simple story of 12 American soldiers fighting against Taliban. The help from the Afghan side is one of the main factors in the war, and this is not understated in the film. It also shows the meeting of the two cultures and how they come together to fight against a common enemy.
There are also a few jokes that cut the tension with a few laughs but keeping with the tone of the film; there are far more intense moments. It avoids any overt political or moral commentary by sticking to the facts and telling the story. It is not overly gruesome as some war movies tend to be. There are a few disturbing scenes but they are far more unsettling when you consider that they are based on real events that because they happen to be visually gory.
What Could Have Been Better:
Apart from the barebone story of what's back home for three of the soldiers played by Hemsworth, Shannon, and Peña, there is hardly any character development for the soldiers. For a group that is based on real men, there was not enough focus on their personalities. There isn't enough time to connect with them which slightly negates the impact of the danger they face. But this is just a minor flaw that won't keep you from enjoying the action.
Why You Should Watch:
Even by itself, without delving into the real world issues, 12 Strong is an entertaining watch that will give you plenty of bangs for your buck. If you've enjoyed similar films about modern combat in the post 9/11 world, you are sure to love this film. Chris Hemsworth fans will also enjoy his real-life avatar that has the same heroic bravado as Thor.