This Week's Review: "12 Strong"

I only had time for one film on January 27, so I caught up with “12 Strong,” the story of the first military response to the 9-11 attacks. Even though those attacks took place more than 16 years ago, they still rankle the American soul – and this film fills in some of the gaps in our historical knowledge. 

The film is based upon Doug Stanton’s “Horse Soldiers,” a book I have not read. I understand that much of the story was classified for several years, and there may still be parts of the story not available to the public. Even so, the story is compelling. Stanton’s original title refers to the 12 men trying to penetrate Afghanistan spending most of their time on horseback because of the terrain.

There is nothing new about the plot. The story reminds me of any number of World War II films in which a small task force faces insurmountable odds to achieve a mission. Chris Hemsworth is almost interchangeable with John Wayne as the officer responsible for bringing his small band home again; he and Michael Pena are the only two cast members I recognized.

There is very little character development, but the subplot was interesting: how do technology-reliant soldiers work with untrained and unequipped guerillas? The cultural differences are fascinating. One crucial problem is the local warlord’s refusal to deal with Hemsworth’s character because he senses that Hemsworth has never killed anyone in combat. The warlord, portrayed effectively by Navid Negahban, is looking for someone with “killer eyes,” and Hemsworth lacks such eyes. The one shock in the film comes when we learn who the warlord now is.

The film is worth seeing, but there is no rush.