‘12 Strong’ whimpers in the middle ground of action and authenticity
There’s a spirit and camaraderie that keeps you just about engaged, but it's nowhere near enough
Director: Nicolai Fuglsig
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Navid Negahban
2 (Out Of 5) Globes
Plot: Set in the days after September 11, “12 Strong” revolves around a special US Task Force, which is made up of CIA paramilitary officers and US Army Green Berets, that are sent to Afghanistan to provide the first response to the terrorist attacks. When they arrive the team, led by Captain Mitch Nelson (Chris Hemsworth), connect with General Abdul Rashid Dostum (Navid Negahban), who runs the Northern Alliance, to fight against the Taliban forces. At the same time they are forced to embrace unconventional warfare, which includes riding on horses through the mountains towards their enemies.
Review: As a producer Jerry Bruckheimer has always prioritized entertainment over pretty much every other aspect of a film. So it’s rather bizarre then that “12 Strong” finds itself stuck in a cinematic no-man’s land between action and authenticity. Don’t get me wrong, “12 Strong” clearly heightens and exaggerates situations. But having been marketed as the story of American soldiers confronted with the unconventional warfare of Afghanistan it doesn’t explore it nearly enough. Instead it is surprisingly political. “12 Strong” does deserve some credit for broaching weightier subjects of duty and the mental toil of being a soldier, and for its disciplined, rather than tub-thumping, depiction of the U.S’ initial entry into Afghanistan. But it never actually has anything insightful to say on either. Instead “12 Strong” just misses opportunities to excite, and even its set pieces progress in such a messy and chaotic manner that they inevitably underwhelm. “12 Strong” is actually a rare action film that could have benefitted from more exposition. It’s not that it’s hard to follow, or overly complicated, it’s just that it’s structure and plotting are so repetitive that you never feel the build or the stakes as the film progresses. The combined presence and camaraderie of Chris Hemsworth, the impressive Navid Negahban, always delightful Michael Shannon, Trevante Rhodes, and Michael Pena stop "12 Strong" completely falling flat. But it’s ultimately a forgetful whimper instead of the rousing dose of patriotism intended.