Director Nicolai Fuglsig
Genre Action | Drama | History
Cast Chris Hemsworth, Michael Shannon, Michael Peña, Trevante Rhodes
Release Date January 19th, 2018
From director Nicolai Fuglsig, 12 Strong is a history war drama based on the book Horse Soldiers from author Doug Stanton, and the film was originally titled after the book but then was changed to 12 Strong. I recently finished the book and it was absolutely amazing. It is mind boggling how little I knew about what these men sacrificed for our great country, and I can't even tell you how many times the book gave me chills. This is the story of real-life action hero's post 9/11, taking the fight to the terrorists to prove that they made a costly mistake messing with us. The cast includes Chris Hemsworth, Michael Shannon, Michael Peña, and Trevante Rhodes.
A story that is unknown to the vast majority of American citizens, 12 Strong is an accurate retelling of the brave men who took on the Taliban after the tragic events of 9/11. As I previously mentioned, this film is based on the book Horse Soldiers: The Extraordinary Story of a Band of US Soldiers Who Rode to Victory in Afghanistan, written by author Doug Stanton, and it is an incredible and unbelievable story. This is about a group of men, fathers, brothers, sons, who felt they owed it to their Country to ensure we won’t fall victim to such a heinous terrorist attack again. I still can’t get over the fact that these men fought a modern war on horseback (yes, I said horseback!), going up against tanks and rocket launchers. Even though these men were as surprised as we were to be fighting this battle they embarked on in such a way, they didn’t hesitate, and that may be even more impressive than the end result itself.
If I were going to try and pick apart 12 Strong I would say that it really doesn’t match the intensity level that we have come to expect from war films based on actual events, such as Black Hawk Down, Zero Dark Thirty, or 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi, to name of few. But the interesting thing about this specific critique is the fact it is actually very much true to the book. Certain aspects of the events that took place when these men teamed up with the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan seemed far-fetched, but they did in fact happen. So I guess that aspect really shouldn’t be held against the movie portrayal, right? It would seem unfair. The story itself is just so uniquely unbelievable in so many ways. I will say that the film did leave out certain controversial aspects of the book, one of the biggest being the fact that an American was discovered amongst the Taliban (not a spoiler!), but I realize it would have been difficult to put that into context in the film. All in all, 12 Strong brings an incredible story to life and I myself am thrilled that this movie was made if just for the simple fact that so many more people will now know this incredible story. Its funny because after the movie I was using the restroom on my way out of the theater and a few guys were in there as well talking about the movie and I overheard one of them say, “Man, it is so crazy that 12 guys went in to Afghanistan to take on the Taliban and we had no idea!”- that is the impact I hoped the film would have on audiences.
I will happily admit that they did a fantastic job with the cast for 12 Strong, bringing in big names like Chris Hemsworth and the two Michael’s (Shannon and Peña, of course). Many critics kept it light by saying Thor became Captain American on horseback in a fight against the Taliban, and while a little goofy, that isn’t entirely untrue. I really liked Hemsworth in this role and felt that he embodied everything necessary to be a believable leader of brave men. Hemsworth maintained a stoic and unflappable demeanor for the length of the film, true to the story of the man who’s story he was telling. Michael Shannon has become one of my favorite actors and I really like his incredible ability to become his character, especially when taking on a dramatic role- he was unreal in Nocturnal Animals. Shannon once again brings his ability for drama to 12 Strong and helps to further engrain the bond of brotherhood between all of these men.
Michael Peña is awesome as usual, and as I expected he brings more of the comedic element to the cast, ensuring things are light when necessary. He may not have the dramatic depth that Shannon is capable of, but his role in one of my favorite movies ever, Crash (2004), proves he is more than just a comedic actor. I really liked Geoff Stults in this film, and although you probably won’t recognize his name, he is an actor you will recognize as soon as you see him. Random fact, actor Austin Hebért, who didn’t have a large role in the film, reminded me of New England Patriots star wide receiver Julian Edelman each and every time he was on screen. I literally did a double take multiple times. Man, it would have been cool if Edelman was in the movie! Moonlight star Trevante Rhodes was impressive in his portrayal of a man who had a difficult time adjusting to life in Afghanistan, and I thought he was a great addition to the cast. I was a little surprised and disappointed with William Fichtner’s role, and although he was fine in his role, I just felt that he phoned it in a bit during a few of his scenes and lacked the emotional intensity he should have possessed. All in all, the supporting cast was solid.
12 Strong may not be the most exciting and intense war drama to make it to the big-screen, but it is an amazing story of bravery and determination, and more than anything else it should make us proud to be Americans. I do recommend that you read the book if you want a better understanding of what took place in Afghanistan during the Fall of 2001 because the pages stretch well beyond what the film is able to tell us. So I will leave you with this- it is far from the ultimate sacrifice to get up off of the couch and go learn a few things about the 12 men that, along with the help of the Northern Alliance, single-handedly saved thousands of lives by crippling Bin Laden and the Taliban, so please make the effort to see 12 Strong while it’s in theaters. It is well worth the price of admission. Recommended.