12 Strong Movie Review
In 12 Strong, Chris Hemsworth and Michael Shannon shout a lot of things soldiers say in movies where soldiers shout a lot and director Nicolai Fuglsig blows up many rocks—the end result is a moderately entertaining but undeniably B-rate war movie.
Based on a true story about a Green Beret mission into Afghanistan shortly after September 11, 12 Strong is a fast-paced, action-packed war drama that can’t escape its cliché screenplay. Plenty of shooting, explosions, shouting and, yes, horseback riding, ensues, but a timeless war movie this is not.
Less hokey than the Michael Bay movie 13 Hours (the John Krasinski-starring war thriller about the Benghazi embassy attack) but also more generic—something many modern war movies have had trouble with—12 Strong advances like an action movie that is more interested in showing the audience a mission than it is depicting the men who carried it out. Screenwriters Ted Tally and Peter Craig, working from the book Horse Soldiers by Doug Stanton, do a decent job in making likable characters for Hemsworth, Shannon, Michael Peña and others to portray, but even still these characters/actors are primarily forced to say cliché lines pulled from the generic war movies that have come before.
The cliché dialogue also extends to how various aspects of the mission are described, which can generally be translated to “we have to do this right now because if not the war will be over before it starts,” when in reality the stakes weren’t nearly that high. That’s not to minimize the mission itself or the efforts of the men, both Americans and Afghanis, involved, but everything in the movie is shouted with such bravado and hyperbole it’s hard to take anything in the movie entirely seriously.
In short, with a little more precision and much less bluster, 12 Strong could have tapped into the emotional aspects of the story and in turn found a more personal and grounded angle to the film as a whole.
As is, 12 Strong is a perfectly fine war movie that offers up plenty of action and entertainment value, even if the film itself is unfortunately not very memorable nor particularly well written.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.