Thursday, 1 February 2018

12 Strong Film Review

I saw 12 Strong this week which attempted to grab a little victory in Afghanistan, a country that is described as the graveyard of empires. Directed by Nicolai Fuglsig, with a crack team of green berets, special forces, and a captain who has never seen active service.

But what a captain. By day he's Thor, and could just tip Afghanistan upside down and shake out the Taliban and Al-Qaida. But here he's Chris Hemsworth as Mitch Nelson, a man who took a desk job in Kentucky to be with his family, but watches the Twin Towers burn, and steps up. The men under his command include Michael Shannon, who I think could win any war, the ever funny and reliable Michael Peña, and Moonlight's gorgeous Trevante Rhodes.

Nelson's team are sent to Afghanistan after he persuades Rob Riggle's (made for the job) Lt. Colonel, that he can lead, with Michael Shannon delaying his retirement for this one last gig. At the US base in Uzbekistan before deployment, the captains are interviewed by William Fichtner's Colonel Mulholland, with Nelson impressing him. And his guys get the chance to be the first ones to take the fight to the Taliban in Task Force Dagger. They will meet up with one of the warlord leaders of the Afghan Northern Alliance. A feisty bunch who hate the Taliban, but also each other. It won't be easy.

Dropped behind enemy lines they are met by US soldiers already based in Afghanistan at 'The Alamo'. You'll remember The Alamo as none survive. And it is here that they meet up with Navid Negahban's General Dostum and his men. This is a top-secret mission that has never been attempted before, and we don't know the rules of engagement. And it's on horseback, for this is a mountainous land, and horse is the best way to travel. There are only 6 horses so the team splits, and saddle up. Although most have never been on a horse. Except for spring break, or when they were too drunk to notice.

Dostum's men are to show the US troops where the Taliban are, who will then communicate with HQ the coordinates for them to bomb. And of course the US rules the sky, which will disrupt Taliban supplies, and clear a way through to the North. Given 6 weeks, Mitch says he'll do it in 3. Of course a dead American soldier is worth money; and his uniform. But the guys are a little upset they aren't worth more. And they're outnumbered by 5000 to one. Odds they like!

For a war film there is lots of humour between the guys. When supplies are dropped in and the locals pick them up, they then try to sell them back to the soldiers left at The Alamo. And each soldier has an Afghan body guard. Trevante's is a young boy who sticks to him like glue. But they bond really well.

But we are mainly concerned with the Magnificent 6 on horseback, who more than match their Afghan guides. Adding a competitive edge, Colonel Mulholland sends another team in, in case Nelson's team fails before the winter sets in. This neither pleases Nelson, nor General Dostum, who are constantly testing each other.

Splitting his team again on a dangerous mission Nelson asks the guys at The Alamo, who now have horses, to join the rest of the group in the caves of Dostum's HQ. Before making the push through to Mazar-i-Sharif in the North. Hoping to get there before the other US team. But by now Dostum's had enough and Nelson's men are on their own. But they are savvy enough now to pick their way through the country with the Afghans they have left. And the aim is still to take out a vicious Taliban leader, played by Numan Acar, who by necessity is evil incarnate.

And finally our men have him and the Taliban in their sights. But they have a few tricks of their own, like a rocket launcher. Nelson takes them on. And every one knows the legend of the Light Brigade when the cavalry charge into The Valley of Death.

Although most of the action takes place with the soldiers, the film does attempt to show what the other side is like for the equally brave women at home. With Alison King playing Michael Shannon's wife, and Lauren Myers playing Michael Peñas. And lucky Elsa Pataky, the real wife of Chris Hemsworth playing his on-screen wife Jean.

In tribute to the 12 men the Horse Soldiers were honoured with a statue at the Freedom Tower, on the site of the World Trade Centre where it all began.

And those men were played by:

Chris Hemsworth - Captain Mitch Nelson.
Michael Shannon - Hal Spencer.
Michael Peña - Sam Diller.
Trevante Rhodes - Ben Milo.
Geoff Stults - Sean Coffers.
Thad Luckinbill - Vern Michaels.
Austin Hébert - Pat Essex.
Austin Stowell - Fred Falls.
Ben O'Toole - Scott Black.
Kenneth Miller - Kevin Jackson.
Kenny Sheard - Bill Bennett.
Jack Kesy - Charles Jones.

A passionate film that shows both the bravery of a group of US soldiers, not afraid to get stuck in for their country. And the bravery of the Afghan men fighting to free their own country.

Sadly we hear every day that the Taliban have taken control of another part of Afghanistan since we left. But I hope that none of our beautiful brave boys ever fights there again.

And I really hope for a future of freedom for women under Islam.

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