12 Strong

The impact of 9/11 still reverberates throughout history and continues to affect people’s everyday lives today. It is easy to forget what happened after the events that occurred on that day on the East Coast of the United States, but one thing that this tragedy did do was galvanise the fighting spirit of Americans. The enlistment of soldiers of all ages was the result of the attack on the United States and led to a new battle without borders and against Al-Queda and the Taliban. Regardless of the views, individuals may have toward the efforts to ferret out the instigators of these acts, the fascinating tales surrounding the accounts of the battles are being declassified and made aware to the general public.

Based on Doug Stanton’s book Horse Soldiers, audiences are given the opportunity of seeing one of the many stories that have been recently declassified by the American military. The compelling retelling of a coordinated effort between CIA paramilitary officers and US Army Special Forces lead by Captain Mitch Nelson (Chris Hemsworth) to secure the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan. They needed to assess the needs of the local population and determine a means of pushing back the work of the Taliban in that sector of the country. With the needed partnership of General Abdul Rashid Dostum (Navid Negahban), the diplomatic and military effort had to be carried out in a three-week time frame. Being left with only horses to assist them in getting to the battlefront and an arduous trek across mountains and desert, the American forces and Afghan warriors had to learn to work through their cultural differences to find a means of defeating their common enemy.

It would be easy to dismiss this film as another run-of-the-mill exercise in American propaganda and a straightforward depiction of the modern day battlefront. This assessment would be unfortunate for fans of this movie genre because even though 12 Strong does contain some of the typical fare, it does engage with enough unique elements to deliver an entertaining and inspiring story.

What helps to distinguish this wartime film above the masses comes down to the right combination of characters and bizarre situations that impacted Task Force Dagger. Chris Hemsworth and Michael Peña (Antman) make for an excellent pairing to head up this team of unassuming heroes. While the actor formerly known as Thor provides the swagger, Peña delivers just the right amount of humorous quips to lighten an exceptionally tense scenario. Michael Shannon (The Shape of Water) is under-utilised in his role, but does provide maturity and depth to the team. The rest of the US force team fill out what is needed to balance the typical band of brothers on the battlefield. Having Navid Negahban (American Assassin) as the leader of the Afghan tribe proved to be an excellent choice to match Hemsworth’s formidable presence.

The compelling element of this film and what most likely was the driving force behind getting this to the big screen was the fight against insurmountable odds this team faced. Going into the battle on horseback against tanks and rocket launchers makes for compelling cinema. Danish director Nicolai Fuglsig manages to stretch the story out just enough to prove that this story was worthy of a full-length feature film.

12 Strong will be best suited for fans of wartime films and who enjoy a massive dose of testosterone. Even though there is a strong family theme to the storyline, the majority of the screentime is set in the desperate and despairing landscapes of Afghanistan. They have delivered a straightforward battlefield action drama that is compelling but does not break any new ground for the genre.

REEL DIALOGUE – What are some questions people have about patriotism?  

Where are the roots of patriotism?  12 Strong will cause the least patriotic person to consider their love for the country in which they live. The desire to fight for the benefit of your country is shown by the Americans and the Afghani people.
Yet, is patriotism a biblical concept? Yes and no. A Christian should understand that their citizenship is not found in an earthly kingdom, but in the Kingdom of God. Not to diminish or undermine a person’s pride in their country, but to realise what is the first priority of a follower of God. Loyalty to God and then to the earthly country they live in during this life.

Passages on loyalty to a country: 

Psalm 33:12-22, Hebrews 11:13-20, Philippians 3:20

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Russell Matthews

Russell loves film and enjoys engaging in discussions about the latest cinema offerings and then connecting this with the Gospel. He has worked for City Bible Forum for over 10 years, is a reviewer for Insights Magazine and Entertainment Fuse and has a blog called Russelling Reviews. He moderates events for Reel Dialogue which connect the film industry with the general public.