"12 Strong" wears its heart and inspiration on its rolled up, biceps-popping sleeves, so you'll either roll your eyes in disdain or pump your fist in admiration.
After the 9/11 attack of the World Trade Centre, when America was shaken, a dozen of emotionally charged Special Forces Operatives handpicked by Captain Mitch Nelson (Chris Hemsworth) go on a mission of utmost importance and secrecy, to annihilate the enemy, in the town of Mazar-i-Sharif. A new captain, Mitch Nelson (Hemsworth) leads the ODA 595 team for a unsafe mission that involves developing a partnership (ironic) with the Northern Alliance in order to take down the Taliban and its Al-Qaida allies.
The movie shows how the 12 soldiers had to remain courageous when faced with near-death situations, all in the hopes of coming back home to their loved ones and protecting their homeland of America. As a result, the film doesn't show many aspects of the Taliban's culpability within the frame of the movie.
The strongest aspect of "12 Strong" was the chemistry between the actors. It filmed in and around Albuquerque, Socorro and Alamogordo. I found it incredibly fascinating.
Negahban spent 90 days off and on in New Mexico. "It was a rough shoot, and being in the mountains and caves, it was unbelievable". So much so, that it also overshadows the performances of Hemsworth, Michael Shannon (as Chief Warrant Officer Cal Spence) and the other actors.
This was director Nicolai Fuglsig's first time directing a feature length drama.
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The soldiers "were the tip of the spear, the first American soldiers on the ground in Afghanistan". Al Qaeda had taken the precaution on September 9 of assassinating Ahmad Shah Massoud (his picture is seen briefly in early scenes), the leader of the shaky "Northern Alliance" of Taliban-hating Afghan tribes.
Code-named Task Force Dagger, the mission was as much diplomatic as it was military. Teaming up with Dostum's band of fighters on horseback is the best hope for defeating the Taliban before they gain control of all of Afghanistan. Fuglsig stages the various firefights between the American/Afghani and Taliban forces capably; also, a lot of the action seems to be practical, eschewing obvious or cartoonish green-screen or CGI.
Politics and consequences are of little interest to the filmmakers beyond the wistful musings of Dostum, who makes passing comments about how Afghanistan is the "graveyard of many empires" and how the US forces will be cowards if they leave and enemies if they stay. I love how Navid delivers every line with such power and weight. "You live in a place where life looks better than the afterlife", Dostum (Negahban) says by way of explanation for their enemies' relentless tactics and apparent disregard for their own lives. The idea is simple; Nelson and his men will identify targets, call in American bombers, and allow Dostum's troops to ride in and clean up once the dust settles.
After bidding a teary farewell to their families, the soldiers are dropped into the wilderness, 40 miles away from their destination where they meet-up with Dostum (Navid Negahban), a local Central Intelligence Agency agent and a warlord, who helps them in their endeavour. So it takes a while, but through the film you will see how they connect with each other, how they truly become blood brothers.
"I have very vivid, vivid memories of 9/11", Hemsworth shared with Variety.