Review: 12 Strong
By Jaskee Hickman
You don’t really expect Warner Bros. Pictures to make movies like 12 Strong. At this point, they’re more known for DC Comics, comedies, horror movies and the occasional awkward and risky film. Well this time around, they’ve decided to take a step in a more serious direction and focus on a film about a group of soldiers who never had their story told until now.
12 Strong tells the declassified true story of the Horse Soldiers. Led by Captain Mitch Nelson (Chris Hemsworth), this U.S. Special Forces team was chosen to be the first U.S. troops sent into Afghanistan after the attacks on September 11th, 2001. In order to accomplish their assignment, the team must go through rugged mountains and vast landscapes while also overcoming cultural differences and the mutual distrust between them and the Northern Alliance that they must work with as they move in to fight against the Taliban and Al Qaeda.
You won’t be surprised with what the first act of 12 Strong contains, but you should know that it’s executed in a way that is too slow and long during the time when we’re trying to get into what it is setting up. As usual, this is the period of a film where they focus on developing the characters who are going to carry us through the finish, but it doesn’t really work as well as it should this time. The reason for that has more to do with the characters not being at all deep even though we spend so much time with them during this portion of the picture. In a better movie, this doesn’t happen.
What we find out could have been given to us quicker and more efficiently. All we’re told is that the soldiers can’t wait to get into the action after the events of 9/11. They’re anxious and will talk to whoever they can to get this done, but that’s about it. There are also a couple of scenes where we meet the families of a few of the guys that are here to help out, but these are brief and largely forgettable.
Most of the people who are watching will want these men to succeed because of who they are and what they’re fighting for, but it never goes any deeper than what I described. You could have had the same outcome if the movie started right before they entered battle and used something like flashbacks to just before the soldiers went off to war in order to fill in the backstory as we also moved forward. As you’ll notice yourself, there was simply no need to hang around as long as we have to in this particular instance.
This approach slows 12 Strong down to a significant degree, but the action that is here helps make up for it a little. Although I’m unable to describe it as anything special, the action scenes are usually engaging and are able to hold your attention for the most part. Because of this, I can see people going to see this and feeling like they got what they wanted because of these sequences. While they’re not great, they’re of good enough quality to satisfy even those who ultimately may not like other parts of the movie.
There isn’t a whole lot to say about 12 Strong when looking back at it. The good thing about it is that it gives you what you may expect from this kind of movie even though it could have done it in a faster or at least more engaging way. In the end, 12 Strong isn’t something you are guaranteed to regret watching, but it is a missed opportunity for Warner Bros. Pictures when you look at what they had in front of them. This story is a unique one that deserves to be told. It’s just unfortunate it couldn’t rise of above what the finished product produced.
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