Mitch Nelson (Chris Hemsworth) was just about set to retire from the military when 9/11 happened. With his fellow team member Chief Warrant Officer Cal Spencer’s (Michael Shannon) help, he is allowed back on the team as Captain to go to Afghanistan. In Afghanistan, he meets with Colonel John Mulholland (William Fichtner) as the Colonel decides which one of the five Captains he’s interviewed should take the lead on an important mission. Mitch, who has never actually been to war, wins him over in a two minute meeting and his group of guys known as Task Force Dagger get the mission: they have to tag along with a Northern Alliance general, General Abdul Rashid Dostum (Navid Negahban) and his troops as they go to Taliban / Al Qaeda controlled towns en route to the stronghold, Mazar-i-Sharif, and when they get near to their targets Nelson will call in airstrikes to help the general. In addition to the Taliban, they face a three week or so deadline with winter approaching, as well as Dostum disdain for another general that is part of the Northern Alliance, who if he sees he’d stop fighting the Taliban and shoot at him. When they first meet the general, they’re told he doesn’t know English, but apparently he does. He sees in Nelson’s eyes that Nelson hasn’t killed anyone before, and offers the Captain only 6 horses, effectively splitting Nelson’s team in half. Half the guys go, while the other half remain at the base camp “The Alamo” where we pointlessly check in with them throughout the first half to remember that’s where they are. Will they be able to succeed?
12 Strong is another 9/11 war movie (and another over two hours long movie) that delivers the stereotypical team camaraderie of men, who find their duty to their country is more important than their wives and children, as they embark on a mission that is filled with action shoot-outs and bombings. Like Lone Survivor, the characters have little to no personality other than what the actor cast in the role is able to bring in delivering their handful of lines. Hemsworth gets the meat of the material, but as The AV Club aptly calls out, it’s delivered in a “wavering American accent.” But I suppose these movies are less about the characters and more about their bravery in going out on a deadly mission in the name of their country. The movie does do a good job at explaining the mission in simplistic, easy to follow terms, but once the team is split up, the movie slows down with the unnecessary bouncing back and forth between Alpha and Beta teams, instead of just hurrying along until they’re re-united. I also got the feeling that they’re trying to pump up this mission to be far more important than it actually was. The action sequences / shootouts feel very familiar, even though this mission is supposed to be unique because they’re riding on horse. Likewise, much of the casting feels wasted, as General Dostum has more lines and screen time than Michael Peña and Trevante Rhodes combined. In the end, it’s another propaganda film trying to convince us to pledge our loyalty to the military just because some brave guys made careers doing it and now have a heroic story to tell after a hell of a mission.