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12 Strong Movie Review

12 Strong (2018) movie poster 12 Strong

Theatrical Release: January 19, 2018 / Running Time: 129 Minutes / Rating: R

Director: Nicolai Fuglsig / Writers: Ted Tally, Peter Craig (screenplay); Doug Stanton (book Horse Soldiers)

Cast: Chris Hemsworth (Captain Mitch Nelson), Michael Shannon (Hal Spencer), Michael Peρa (Sam Diller), Navid Negahban (General Dostum), Trevante Rhodes (Ben Milo), Geoff Stults (Sean Coffers), Thad Luckinbill (Vern Michaels), Austin Hιbert (Pat Essex), Austin Stowell (Fred Falls), Ben O'Toole (Scott Black), Kenneth Miller (Kevin Jackson), Kenny Sheard (Bill Bennett), Jack Kesy (Charles Jones), Rob Riggle (Lt. Colonel Bowers), William Fichtner (Colonel Mulholland), Arshia Mandavi (Najeeb), Elsa Pataky (Jean Nelson), Marie Wagenman (Maddy Nelson), Allison King (Marsha Spencer), Samuel Kamphuis (Jake Spencer)


Historically, January is a month when bad movies come out to theaters. If you're not in one of the big cultural centers, January is when you'll get the awards-bound dramas that opened in New York and Los Angeles right around Christmas like The Post and Phantom Thread. You usually don't have to worry about those. It's the movies that open nationwide far removed from awards consideration that should breed skepticism.
Counterprogramming that doesn't even screen for critics, like Proud Mary and the new Insidious. And 12 Strong, a Jerry Bruckheimer production that seems determined to be 2018's 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi, down to the alpha-stacked title.

Like that Michael Bay movie, which somehow went on to earn a sound category Oscar nomination a full year after its release, 12 Strong tells a true story of modern-day military heroics. The film opens with clips from a series of terrorist attacks connected to Al Qaeda and the Taliban: from the 1993 World Trade Center bombing until an assassination carried out in September of 2001. Of course, that setting leads to 9/11, which is presented here in CNN coverage after the young daughter of Captain Mitch Nelson (Chris Hemsworth) takes a break from watching The Chipmunk Adventure (the real highlight of this movie). Mitch has just gotten home from a stint and he's about to settle into an office job. After 9/11 though, he wants to reassemble his Special Forces Team to be chosen to be the first ones on the ground in Afghanistan pursuing the Taliban, the regime protecting Al Qaeda, the terrorist group responsible for that unprecented, large-scale attack on New York and Washington, D.C.

With his supportive supervisor Chief Warrant Officer Hal Spencer (Michael Shannon, taking a break from villainy) at his side, Mitch convinces Colonel Mullholland (a completely bald William Fichtner) to let his team be the one to carry out the mission. Within a day, Mitch, Hal, and less focal others (played by Michael Peρa, Moonlight's Trevante Rhodes, and less recognizable bearded white men) are meeting with an Afghani warlord and proceeding to plot the attack on the Taliban. The American military have Afghani warriors looking out for them. A far cry from conventional contemporary military antics, they ride horses in the mountains.

Captain Mitch Nelson (Chris Hemsworth) consults with General Dostum (Navid Neghaban) in "12 Strong."

There isn't much else to say about the plot. The film proceeds to let the Americans and their allies face danger. The warlord (Navid Negahban of "Homeland") drops some knowledge on Mitch about being a warrior and using his heart. Mitch meanwhile repeatedly points out that "If this doesn't happen, the whole thing falls apart." But you don't care about the this and you don't care about the whole thing. It's not that you know the mission will be successful; if you don't know the true story coming in, you might think you're in for a less overtly titled Lone Survivor scenario. It's that nothing -- not the screenplay by Ted Tally (The Silence of the Lambs) and Peter Craig (The Town and the two Hunger Games: Mockingjay films),
not the direction by newcomer Nicolai Fugslig, not the machismo-laden performances by the reasonably seasoned cast -- compels you to care and invest in the explosions and gunfire that ensue.

There are two hours of explosions and gunfire. And character development largely ceases after three of the guys are introduced saying goodbye to their wives, who we're supposed to wonder if they'll ever see again.

Is it watchable? I guess so. Is it engaging or rewarding in any way? Not really. This is a January movie in every sense. The kind that will be long forgotten by the time this year's Oscars ceremony is held, let alone the one that it is eligible for thirteen months from now. Hemsworth has had little success outside of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Shannon, who usually manages to class up films with performances that can't be discounted from Supporting Actor conversation even in movies with little prospects beyond that, can do nothing to elevate this material. Rhodes picks up a project that gives him exposure while his turn in the final third of last year's Best Picture winner is still fresh in mind, but it doesn't seem like a project that will advance his career. Bruckheimer's mega producer status has been on the wane since leaving Disney and his only whiff of commercial relevance in years has been in the dead horse beating that is the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. 12 Strong probably sets back everyone involved with it, but not in a surprising or significant way. It's January and bad movies are expected.

Related Reviews:
American Sniper • Zero Dark Thirty • War Dogs • Seal Team Six: The Raid on Osama Bind Laden • Lone Survivor
Chris Hemsworth: Red Dawn • The Cabin in the Woods • Thor: Ragnarok | Michael Shannon: 99 Homes • Take Shelter • Elvis & Nixon • The Runaways
Trevante Rhodes: Moonlight | Michael Pena: Fury • Collateral Beauty • American Hustle
Now in Theaters: The 15:17 to Paris • Black Panther • Red Sparrow • Game Night • The Post • Phantom Thread

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Reviewed February 26, 2018.

Text copyright 2018 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2018 Warner Bros. Pictures, Alcon Entertainment, Black Label Media, Jerry Bruckheimer Films, and Torridon Films.
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