Plot: After the attacks on 9/11, a response was all but certain and the first strike back against the Taliban centered on a dozen U.S. soldiers. This small force will go into Afghanistan and lend support to a local warlord General Dostum (Navid Negahban), who is on a drive to liberate Taliban strongholds. At the lead of the U.S. squad is Captain Nelson (Chris Hemsworth), who has served in the leadership role for years, but has no actual combat experience. He is certain to be tested, given just weeks to earn Dostum’s trust and help push toward a crucial location, one that if it can be retaken, will cripple the Taliban in the northern region. This area is known as the graveyard of empires for a reason, as it has crushed countless armies who sought to conquer it, but Nelson and Dostum are both highly driven to succeed. Outnumbered, outgunned, and having to rely on tactics they’ve never been prepared for, such as horse mounted combat, can this small force strike a huge blow against the Taliban regime?
Entertainment Value: Based on real life events, 12 Strong manages to avoid some of the usual pitfalls these hero worship movies fall into, giving us a solid, if a little drawn out war experience. The main issue with 12 Strong is that we’re given almost no background on anyone, even the main lead is given a skeletal profile at best, we just know he has no combat experience and promised to return home alive. A little insight is offered through brief bursts of exposition on some of the others, but honestly, there’s not much at all to connect to or relate with. Dostum is actually the most well rounded character, as we learn a lot about his life and his struggles, while he also our main conduit of exposition about the locale. The movie runs overly long, so I am not sure why some time wasn’t taken to build up the characters, but it is what it is. This is also not an all out action movie, but it does pack in some big, extensive set pieces and they’re effective, with an especially frantic presence. Chris Hemsworth is passable, but forgettable in the lead and as I said, not much depth is present anywhere here, which limits how much help the supporting cast can lend. I found the performances to be middle of the road, but the script is more to blame than the cast, I think. In the end, 12 Strong is a solid, if shallow look at an interesting real life narrative, so for fans of similar war/hero stories, it is likely worth a look.
No nakedness. A wife’s refusal to put out in order to inspire her husband’s safe return is the closest this one gets to romance. This is a movie that takes place in a war zone, so that means a good deal of violence and by turn, bloodshed. Most of the violence here is within shoot outs, so even though some splashes of CGI blood can be seen, they’re fleeting and not overly graphic. But while the blood isn’t graphic, there are a lot of shootings and deaths in this one, so volume of violence is high. There’s also some more visceral elements, such as more close up looks at serious injuries or just blood soaked wounds, but they’re still not that graphic in nature. The shoot outs are well executed, with a real kinetic, in the moment feel that gives off that wartime vibe, complete with vehicles, missiles, explosions, helicopters, and yes, suicide bombers. The dialogue has some bro lingo, tough guy talk, and ominous war wisdom, but not much in terms of memorable or quotable lines. The script is rather basic and as I’ve said, fails to provide depth for the characters, so a lack of interesting dialogue is no surprise. No craziness here, this one is straight forward war/hero fare.
Overall Insanity: 0/10