Starring Chris Hemsworth, Michael Shannon, Michael Pena, Trevante Rhodes, Navid Negahban
Jerry Bruckheimer and Warner Bros are trying to sell their military ordered January placement film 12 Strong as something we haven’t seen before. True, last year’s Megan Leavey was a different spin on a war movie with a female marine and a German Shepard, but this film is no more about horses than Black Hawk Down was about helicopters. It’s your run of the mill war film, albeit showcasing courageous men who risked their lives to make a dent in the Taliban regime. 12 Strong struggles to build suspense, so much so that I found myself drifting off at the endless scenes routing these guys to locations. Hemsworth (Thor Ragnorok) doesn’t have the leading war commander chops and Oscar nominated Shannon (The Shape of Water) is wasted on a surface level role.
After the events of 9/11, Captain Mitch Nelson (Hemsworth) returns from leave to reform a team he abandoned for a safe desk job in order to spend more time with his family. With no combat experience, Nelson leads twelve men into Afghanistan to slow the advancing dangers of the Taliban terrorist group. They are to team up with Northern Alliance warlord General Dostum (Negahban) to aid the secret cause. The two commanders struggle to trust each other, and Dostum instantly picks up on Nelson’s inexperience. “You will fail because you fear death,” he warns the eager American hero. The US soldiers must navigate dangerous and unfamiliar terrain on horseback, the one means of transportation they military failed to train them with.
There is no creativity on the part of inexperienced director Nicolai Fuglsig, whose been handed a near impossible task.
Compared to intelligent war films that rise above the genre (Zero Dark Thirty, Hacksaw Ridge), 12 Strong is nothing more than a studio film filling a slot. Since American Sniper created this expectation of modern day military war flicks hitting during the first of the year, movie studios have turned them out like clockwork. There is no creativity on the part of inexperienced director Nicolai Fuglsig, whose been handed a near impossible task. Hemsworth’s performance could be swapped for any high profile leading actor. The Aussie brings no special skills or measure of talent to this generic leader that has little to no character arc. It’s worse for Michael Shannon, who isn’t actually a box office seat filler on his own. The talented actor is given little to do on screen, again, anyone could have played that part.
Battle scene after battle scene, endless shots from above showing air strikes and how important controlling the skies were for victory. The only character with any real depth or transition is Navid Negahban’s unpredictable general. Telling the story from his perspective and the American’s as after thoughts would have been far more interesting. What we are given is a film that only half cares about the story it’s peddling and more about explosions and genre checklists. The very few female characters on screen are not even given names. “Mitch’s wife” is Elsa Pataky (Hemsworth’s real life spouse) official title on IMDB.
A generic genre film with little to add to the conversation.