Producer Jerry Bruckheimer has been making war blockbusters for decades, with films like Top Gun, Black Hawk Down and Pearl Harbor to his credit.
His latest war movie 12 Strong, a Nicolai Fuglsig directed film based on Doug Stanton’s book Horse Soldiers, tells the story of the United States’ Special Forces unit Task Force Dagger, comprising US Army Green Berets and CIA paramilitary officers who are sent to Afghanistan following the 9/11 World Trade Center attack.
God of Thunder, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) plays Special Forces Captain Mitch Nelson inspired by Mark Nutsch, the man who actually led the 12-man unit into Afghanistan to ally with General Abdul Rashid Dostum of the Northern Alliance against the Taliban and Al Qaeda forces.
The covert mission code-named Operational Detachment Alpha 595 (ODA 595) required members of the elite strike force to wage war against the Taliban on horseback due to the rugged nature of the terrain. Of course, they did have the assistance of their Northern Alliance partners familiar with nuances of the place.
Having grown up on a ranch, horse riding came naturally to Capt. Mitch Nelson who had even competed in rodeos. However, this would be the first time he would be riding into real combat.
The other members of the team, including Sam Diller, Cal Spencer, Ben Milo, Vern Michaels, and the others were not in the same league as their leader and had to hone their horse riding skills overnight in order to stay apace with this highly dangerous mission in enemy territory.
The battle scenes, which take some time to get going as the US forces are familiarizing themselves with their allies and the terrain, pulse with the intensity of modern warfare.
However, as the film progresses the action becomes kind of monotonously repetitive, what with the same attack strategy of getting camp coordinates, wiping off the enemy with airstrikes and engaging the survivors on ground, with vaguely discernible changes here and there for the sake of variation.
The last battle sequence, however, has been filmed with finesse and a great eye for details. The climax sees Nelson leading the charge of his out-numbered team on horseback against the superior numbers and firepower of the Taliban forces.
Overall, 12 Americans is a decent war film but could have been better as noted by IMDb member who goes by the nickname TheIdiotSavant.
Another IMDb member observes that “All in all, 12 Strong is a thoroughly average depiction of extraordinary events, not bad but not great. You’re probably better off reading the book on which this film is based.”
Watch the trailer here.
- Chris Hemsworth as Captain Mitch Nelson
- Michael Shannon as Chief Warrant Officer Cal Spencer
- Michael Peña as Sergeant First Class Sam Diller
- Navid Negahban as General Abdul Rashid Dostum
- Trevante Rhodes as Sergeant First Class Ben Milo
- Geoff Stults as Sean Coffers
- Thad Luckinbill as Vern Michaels
- William Fichtner as Colonel John Mulholland
- Rob Riggle as Colonel Max Bowers
- Elsa Pataky as Jean Nelson, Mitch’s wife
- Austin Stowell as Staff Sergeant Fred Falls
- Ben O’Toole as Scott Black
- Austin Hébert as Sergeant First Class Pat Essex
- Kenneth Miller as Kenny Jackson
- Kenny Sheard as Sergeant First Class Bill Bennett
- Jack Kesy as Charles Jones
- Laith Nakli as Commander Ahmed Lal
- Yousuf Azami, as Fakir
- Saïd Taghmaoui as a Taliban military leader
- Fahim Fazli as Commander Khaled
- Allison King as Marcha Spencer
- Lauren Myers as Lisa Diller
- Taylor Sheridan as Brian
Here’s how the critics have rated the film.
Rotten Tomatoes: Rotten Tomatoes has given the film an approval rating of 51% based on 59 reviews, with an average rating of 5.4/10.
“12 Strong has a solid cast, honorable intentions, and a thrilling, fact-based story – all of which are occasionally enough to balance a disappointing lack of depth or nuance,” is the website’s critical consensus.
Metacritic: According Metacritic’s rating, the film has scored 56 out of 100, based on 30 critics, indicating “mixed or average reviews”
The Wrap: “There’s wit, tension and intelligence in this tale of the first US troops to enter the country after 9.”
Variety: Owen Gleiberman of Variety concludes his review saying, “Visually, the terrain comes close to raising an existential question: What, exactly, are we fighting for in Afghanistan? The film slips in the pointed and now rather outdated argument that if the Taliban can be defeated, and Afghanistan eliminated as an Al Qaeda base, then there will be no more attacks like 9/11. Well, there haven’t been…but is that the reason why? “12 Strong” lends a shape of supreme purpose to a conflict that is still in search of one.”
Chicago Sun-Times: Richard Roeper gives the film a 2.5-star rating out of four. He said that “with a running time of two hours and 10 minutes, 12 Strong has at least 20 minutes of scenes that are either unnecessary or repetitive.”
Exclaim!: Matt Bobkin of Exclaim! called the film “a lazy attempt at injecting something fresh into the 9/11 narrative,” rating it a poor 4 out of 10.