Director: Nicolai Fuglsig
Screenplay: Ted Tally, Peter Craig
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Michael Shannon, Michael Peña, Navid Negahban, Trevante Rhodes, Geoff Stults, Thad Luckinbill
Runtime: 129 Minutes
12 Strong: The Declassified True Story of the Horse Soldiers is an American war drama based on Doug Stanton's non-fiction book ‘Horse Soldiers’. It tells the recently declassified true story of “Task Force Dagger”, a branch of the U.S. Army Special Forces sent to Afghanistan immediately after the September 11 attacks to provide support for the Northern Alliance and anti-Taliban militias.
It’s a pretty unique true story concerning the uneasy peace being established with the Northern Alliance fighters, and the butting of head drama unfolding between Captain Mitch Nelson (Chris Hemsworth) and future Vice President of Afghanistan General Abdul Rashid Dostum (Navid Negahban) following the immediate fallout and still raw nerves after the 9/11 attacks.
Unfortunately, the dramatic representation that we have been handed in the form of this film falls far from any reasonable representation of the crisis, mainly because of its near-total inability to recognise the hindsight of the War in Afghanistan as a prolonged and mishandled situation that it was.
Instead, 12 Strong opts for a chest-thumping patriotic piece of badly formed military propaganda that still seems to believe that its revenge for 9/11 fantasy and fearmongering is in anyway heroic or acceptable in the modern climate – especially considering the eerily tone-deaf application of a Vladimir Putin interview near the beginning of the film that seems to position him as an ally to the American people.
Very little about the film works beyond its outwardly earnest depictions of real-life individuals as played by ultra-macho movie stars, all of whom have been better in other work and their talents are mostly wasted here.
Nicolai Fuglsig, a Danish photojournalist revered for his work in the Kosovo War, certainly has a visual eye at points for keeping things well lit but feels utterly out of his depth whenever it has to adhere to the conventional traits of a Jerry Bruckheimer action vehicle. Whenever the military hardware takes precedence, the action scenes are uninspired and repetitive baring a few specific sequence being staged from a distance and the novelty of a military unity operating mostly on horseback for transport in the rough Afghan wilderness.
12 Strong is a bland and forgettable trek across all too familiar and tired ground made more uncomfortable by its conspicuous desire to openly ignore the true tragedies of the conflict even over its closing texts.