Directors have created films detailing the events before, during, and after the fall of the twin World Trade Center towers on Sept. 11, 2001. From documentaries to thrillers to high-speed action, these films have encompassed many aspects of both the victims and the perpetrators of this turning point in history. 12 Strong was a film with many predecessors to take after, which it did, ending up as hay in the already large haystack of war films.
The movie follows Captain Mitch Nelson (Chris Hemsworth), as he plunges back into active duty after the events of Sept. 11. His group of American soldiers are the first to fight against the Taliban in the wake of 9/11. They leave for Afghanistan where the American soldiers find aid from the Afghan Northern Alliance, whose ultimate goal is to end Taliban rule. Although the film emphasizes the uneasiness between the two groups, Captain Mitch Nelson and the leader of the Northern Alliance, General Dostum (Navid Negahban), who later becomes the president of Afghanistan, become close friends in the three weeks of their mission.
Although the movie is about a 12-man unit, only four characters are delved upon. Mitch Nelson is shown as a good leader, but inexperienced and at times short-tempered. Cal Spencer (Michael Shannon) is a veteran who turns down his retirement in order to serve on the mission alongside Nelson. Sam Diller (Michael Peña) is a family man who begins the movie as the devil’s advocate, but who eventually warms the audience with his unfaltering loyalty. Finally, Ben Milo (Trevante Rhodes) bonds with a young Afghan boy who is assigned to protect him.
The roles of the soldiers were those of mildly arrogant, patriotic people who were spurred on by a foreigner’s slight upon their own country. Performances were as unmemorable as they were dull, which caused dialogue between characters to fall flat as the conversations began to feel forced. A unique take on the script-writing and acting of a war movie could have saved the film, but its lack of originality left much to be desired.
The film’s advertising emphasized much on the horses, having been named ‘War Horses’ as a working title, but they were only used as modes of transportation from one point to another, as the soldiers did not know how to ride them or how to use them. Action scenes were competent but lackluster; they did not provide the emotional connection the audience required to care for the soldiers’s success.
Although the film does focus on the civilian impact of war, the worry of the soldiers’s family members and the crude truths of what happens to victims of war, it also does a lousy job at making all these factors matter. Instead, the audience is forced to watch two hours of fighting with unremarkable characters and a formulaic plotline. The final verdict: if you happen to like the war movie genre, this movie is for you, otherwise its ticket is best kept unbought.
Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5