12 Strong movie director: Nicolai Fuglsig
12 Strong movie cast: Chris Hemsworth, Michael Shannon, Michael Peña, Navid Negahban
12 Strong movie rating: 2 stars
Holding his forefinger and thumb centimetres apart, Captain Nelson (Hemsworth), leading a team of US soldiers deep into Taliban territory in Afghanistan, a month after 9/11, predicts, “We are this close to wiping out al-Qaeda in Afghanistan.”
Well, we know how well that went. 12 Strong fares a little better, striking an unapologetic gung-ho note, going about its job with workman-like efficiency, mixing airstrikes with almost hand-to-hand combat, and having its heroes wrestle about enough in presumably Afghan dust to earn their stripes. Its Afghan general, Dostum (Negahban), also gets reasonably good screen space, though the usual lines including one underlining the difference between “soldiers and warriors”. There is a brutish scene involving a Taliban warlord killing a woman, and Dostum talks about “the times that were”.
But when all is done and dusted, this is a film about back-thumping American heroes, who volunteer for war seeing the WTC towers go down, after saying weepy goodbyes to dutiful wives and children, and remain good, unquestioning people at heart miles away in enemy territory.
12 Strong is based on a book recounting the true story of the American soldiers who went into war in Afghanistan on horseback, “the first 12 men to fight back” after 9/11. In one interview, Lt Col Max Bowers, who commanded the horseback teams, described the operation thus — “It was like out of the Old Testament. You expected Cecil B DeMille to be filming and Charlton Heston to walk out.”
Only, Afghanistan knew better.