12 Strong is Hollywood’s annual patriotic blockbuster; this film fits in the same category as movies like Lone Survivor (2013), 13 hours (2016) and American Sniper (2014).
The film stars Melbourne’s own Chris Hemsworth and the film is based on the true events of the American Horse Soldiers. These twelve men were the first Americans to respond to the September 11 attacks on the twin towers. Before the war on terror began, these twelve men were dropped into Afghanistan and teamed up with local militia to fight the Taliban. They rode on horseback through dangerous terrain while fighting against tanks and artillery weapons.
The best thing that can be said about 12 Strong is that it’s a technically sound film; the locations look great and the cinematography is beautiful. The visceral action creates a consistent amount of tension that makes the film somewhat entertaining. Unfortunately, 12 Strong falls into the same trap that most war movies do – poor writing and an action-heavy story. The film is an excess of gunfire and explosions and while I have no problems with action movies, it would have been nice to see a more rounded film that had me invested in the story, with more character development. Since the film market is saturated with so many American war films, it’s rare to see one that stands out and it’s hard to ignore the obvious propaganda.
Chris Hemsworth is one of the best things about the film; his character is constantly faced with tough decisions and intense situations. He gives a heroic and stern performance that is very believable, balancing the intensity with an emotional centre that can be felt through the relationship he has with his men. Other cast members include Michael Peña and Michael Shannon, and they all do a fine job at delivering their lines. Unfortunately, the writing is very formulaic, which holds a lot of the performances back as audiences have seen writing like this time and time again.
It would have been nice to see more character development and more of a focus on the Militia that fought with the Americans. The locals that fought with the horse soldiers sacrificed more than the Americans did, and it would have been a fuller story if the film examined their side in more depth. War films have played a significant role in contributing to Islamophobia, and I think Hollywood has a responsibility to portray Muslim people in an accurate light. Too often they are the bad guys, and although the movie is called 12 Strong, there were hundreds of Muslim men who were fighting with the Americans. It would have enhanced the story if they were given more screen time.
These men faced the most extreme circumstances and fought bravely despite the odds. They’re true war heroes and if you like war movies then you can’t go wrong with 12 Strong. If you’re after intense and visceral action then this is the film for you. Fans of excess and epic action should buy a ticket.
Rob Riggle plays Colonel Max Bowers, former battalion commander of the 5th Special Forces Group, in the movie. Riggle, a Marine, actually served directly under the real Bowers during the same time period the movie is based on.