Immediately following the events of September 11, 2001, a war broke out – not an event we’re all unfamiliar with. What you may not be familiar with, is the operation of the CIA and US Army special forces in Afghanistan, in which they attempt to take down the Taliban. Led by captain Mitch Nelson (Chris Hemsworth), the team of 12 soldiers form an alliance with General Abdul Rashid Dostum (Navid Negahban) to take down Taliban forces in Operational Detachment Alpha 595 (ODA 595).
“12 Strong” is based solely on this operation, focuses on one team of 12 as they head into the depths of Afghanistan with the mission to make the area unsafe and dangerous for Taliban activities. The mission sees the men leave behind families, and often struggle with the reality of what they’re fighting for.
The mission is largely completed on horseback, with only Captain Nelson of ODA 595 having experience with horses, providing another hurdle for the soldiers. The soldiers must then work alongside General Dostum in order to navigate the harsh Afghani landscape and take out the Taliban camps – which Dostum insists is a win for everyone, including those who reside in Afghanistan.
As with most well-done war films, “12 Strong” is quite confronting and violent. If it’s not the guns in general that get you, it’ll be the violence towards women and children, or the horses. However, as it’s based on a true story, it’s important that the audience gets a gauge for the realities of war and what was so remarkable about ODA 595.
Where “12 Strong” lacks is the depth, with the leaving the family behind theme being touched upon but not really explored more. As hard as it would be to leave behind your loved ones, the was no need to introduce us to a bunch of families, only to never see them on screen again. Additionally, the film does seeming like a cliche war flick at times with the Americans running away from bullets while the Afghans run right into them. Having said that, being based on true events I can’t use that as leverage against it as I have full respect to all those who risked their lives (and still do) to fight for the free world.
The acting, however, is particularly impressive and overall the cinematography and visuals do a great job at painting the picture of being in the midst of war. The athleticism of Hemsworth is always hard to compete with, but the supporting cast do a stellar job, especially considering half of them are already in their 40s. Michael Peña was a particular standout.
Overall, I’d recommend giving this one a watch, and on the big screen if possible.