12 strong poster

Jeri Jacquin

Coming to theatres from director Nicolai Fuglsig and Warner Bros. is the a story of a group of soldiers who are dedicated to doing what is necessary by being 12 STRONG.

Cpt. Mitch Nelson (Chris Hemsworth) is ready to settle into a different military job that would allow him to be home with his wife and daughter. That is until September 11 as he sees on television what almost every American would see as the World Trade Center is under attacked. Knowing that he must return to his Special Forces team, he enlists the help of Chief Warrant Officer Hal Spencer (Michael Shannon) to get him back into the fold.

Quickly a team is sent to Afghanistan as Cpt. Nelson and his team including Sgt. Sam Diller (Michael Pena), Sgt. Ben Milo (Trevante Rhodes), Sgt. Pat Essex (Austin Hebert), Sgt. Bill Bennett (Kenny Sheard) and more arrive with gear in tow.

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Now, Cpt. Nelson must convince Col. Mulholland (William Fichtner) that his team is ready to meet with Northern Alliance General Dostum (Navid Negahban) to fight the Taliban and Al Qaeda. It becomes quickly clear that this will be a struggle as Cpt. Nelson makes contact with General Dostum and there are immediate trust issues that are understandable on both sides.

Another surprise for the Cpt. and men is that this war is going to be fought in a way they could never imagine – on horseback! To get across the desolate land to meet up with
other fighters, there is another leader bringing his own brand of despicable destruction that affects the General deeply.

What is necessary is that two men who have no reason to trust one another learn that they need each other and by working together it may not solve the war’s problems but does bring a surprising understanding of two unlikely leaders.

Hemsworth as Cpt. Nelson is a man dedicated to doing whatever he can, along with his men, to stop those responsible for the terror on American soil. His need to do so means he must say goodbye to his family once again with the belief that he will be returning home. Hemsworth gives a strong performance of a leader who cares about his men but also begins to understand that what he and the crew want are the same thing General Dostum wants. Trusting each other in a short amount of time proves to be frustrating as Cpt. Nelson’s goal is to finish the mission and bring the men home.

Negahban as General Dostum is equally as dedicated as his American counterpart. Believing that there is only one way to fight the enemy who is taking over his country, he tries to believe that the American soldiers mean well but trust on both sides is slowing them down. The cultural misunderstandings are swift and bring about quick reactions from these leaders, as Negahban’s character begins to share the feelings of the Afghani people, he explains that they want the terrorists just as gone as Cpt. Nelson and his men do.

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Shannon as Spencer believes that the mission can only succeed if Nelson is with them. This is a strong character and what I mean by that is the person of Spencer fights through so much to be there for mission success. It is intense when the group realizes that getting help is difficult where they are embedded in the mountains. This role is a departure from the crazy mean character of Strickland in the stunning THE SHAPE OF WATER.

Pena as Sgt. Diller is another character who brings a little bit of laughter with his quick wit and straight delivery. At the same time Pena can put on a game face that is not to be messed with but also this isn’t his first go around playing characters close to war with
his role in LIONS FOR LAMBS and WORLD TRADE CENTER. I believe that Pena is such an under utilized actor and with every role he confirms it.

Fichtner as Col. Mulholland has to be convinced to send in Cpt. Nelson and his men in for a mission that could prove to be a disaster. Once he sends them to meet with General Dostum, it is one step at a time filled with intensity that there are so many pieces to the
fight.

More of the 12 STRONG include Geoff Stults, Thad Luckinbill, Ben O’Toole, Austin Stowell, Kenneth Miller, Kenny Sheard, and Jack Kesy as well as Elsa Patasky, Max Bowers, Marie Wagenman and Rob Riggle.

12 STRONG is a totally different look at the war in Afghanistan after 9/11 because it gives both sides of the fight through a story that deserves to be told. The American soldiers made their feelings quite clear as to why they wanted to go for a dangerous mission in Afghanistan but we also learn that General Dostum and his men have a view as well.

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To me that is a fantastic way to bring this story to the screen and see why each leader and their men mistrust. From the moment the two men arrive at the meeting point, the tension and mistrust is so thick on the screen. That is where the duality of emotion for the viewer kicks in because of course it is understandable that the American soldiers and Afghani soldiers each would be on high alert toward one another.

As the film continues and the Afghans explain what life has been like for them and their people – a change happens, not just between the characters on screen but the audience as well. There are such amazing scenes that either had my jaw dropped or found that I was holding my breath.

That’s what 12 STRONG does, takes you inside an unexpected war to learn about people who are trying to survive terror themselves and come together in unexpected ways.

Doug Stanton is the author of the book HORSE SOLDIERS and he says, “I wanted this to be a book that you would read about guys surviving a harrowing situation. They were told very little about their mission except to attack terrorist camps but not told they would have to ride a horse to do it”.

Also to celebrate these brave soldiers who fought on horseback, sculptor Douwe
Blumberg created the bronze statue De Oppresso Liber located in Liberty Park in New York guarding the attack site.

In the end – on September 11, 2001 the world watched in terror and on September 12, 2001 they volunteered to fight!

 

 

 

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