Yes! Please, Thor, show that disgusting 9/11 (2017) how to do a proper September 11 movie! Well… okay, two different films tackling two different areas of the events of that time, but… I stand by it! Thank God for Chris Hemsworth, man. That’s all I gotta say.
The story looks like it takes place during the September 11 terrorist attacks in 2001. A small group of soldiers, a response team to fight that battles that others couldn’t, if you will (Immediate 10 brownie points to anyone who gets my reference), sets out overseas to avenge (okay, now I’m just trying too hard; sue me, I’m having fun with this!) the lives lost in the attacks. I guess these particular soldiers are famous for fighting against insurmountable odds with very little support to back them up, fought on horseback, among a great many things, I’m sure.
Here’s the cast. Starring, we have the charming Chris Hemsworth (THOR: RAGNAROK , IN THE HEART OF THE SEA , THE CABIN IN THE WOODS , STAR TREK , and upcoming films BAD TIMES AT THE EL ROYALE  and AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR ), the incredible Michael Shannon (THE SHAPE OF WATER , MAN OF STEEL , KANGAROO JACK , and upcoming films WHAT THEY HAD  and STATE LIKE SLEEP ), Michael Peña (MY LITTLE PONY: THE MOVIE , THE MARTIAN , WORLD TRADE CENTER , CRASH , and upcoming films EXTINCTION  and A WRINKLE IN TIME ), Geoff Stults (ONLY THE BRAVE , UNFORGETTABLE , and TV show ENLISTED ), and Trevante Rhodes (MOONLIGHT , and the upcoming THE PREDATOR ). In support, we have William Fichtner (INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE , TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES , THE DARK KNIGHT , and upcoming films TRAFFIK  and KRYSTAL ), Rob Riggle (HOW TO BE A LATIN LOVER , 22 JUMP STREET , HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA , and upcoming films MIDNIGHT SUN  and THE WAR WITH GRANDPA ), and Ben O’Toole (DETROIT , EVERYBODY LOVES SOMEBODY , HACKSAW RIDGE , and the upcoming NEKROMANCER ).
Now for the crew. Directing, we have Nicolai Fuglsig, known for one movie that I’ve never heard of: EXFIL (2017). Co-writing the screenplay are Ted Tally (RED DRAGON  and THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS ) and Peter Craig (BLOOD FATHER , and THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY PART I  and PART II ). Composing the score is Lorne Balfe, known for GEOSTORM (2017), PENGUINS OF MADAGASCAR (2014), THE DILEMMA (2011), video game CALL OF DUTY: MODERN WARFARE 2 (2009), and the upcoming THE HURRICANE HEIST (2018). The cinematographer is Radmus Videbæk, known for THE DARK TOWER (2017). Finally, the editor is Lisa Lassek, known for THE CIRCLE (2017), AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON (2015), THE AVENGERS (2012), and SERENITY (2005).
Overall, I think this is going to be a really good movie. It’s got a great cast, some interesting talent behind the scenes, I’m going in with some fairly high hopes.
This is my honest opinion of: 12 STRONG
Set in the year 2001. On September 11, the World Trade Centers were the target of a Al Qaeda terrorist bombing, and Captain Mitch Nelson (Chris Hemsworth), a loving husband to his wife and young daughter, is compelled to return to active duty with his team. Granted permission, Task Force Dagger’s twelve soldiers are sent to Afghanistan to take out Taliban warlord Mullah Razzan (Numan Acar) with the aid of an Afghan militia leader General Abdul Rashid Dostum (Navid Negahban).
Oh yeah. It’s good and I like it.
Can we just say how perfect of a casting choice Hemsworth was? Not just because he’s a great actor, which is absolutely true, but because of the role he was given. Capt. Mitch is supposed to be a charismatic dude, trying to make friends with a fifty year old veteran warrior in a country that he’s been fighting for since he was sixteen years old, who is not easy to make friends with. Send in, Chris! He’s got this shit! Half kidding aside, Mitch is a pretty good character. He’s a soldier with no real combat experience, but has a crap load of confidence in himself, as well as the confidence of his men, which seems to be well-earned. He proves himself by putting himself in one of his first battles by putting himself in danger- I say, as if soldiers don’t do that… – by running a little too close for comfort to the blast radius of the bombs he’s trying have dropped on a group of Taliban. Gutsy, possibly foolish, but it pays off, and if the events depicted are what really happened back then, then the man certainly earned the respect of his superiors, his unit (who respected him enough, actually), and his allies. None of that would be come across if this role was in the hands of a less charismatic actor.
But if there’s anyone that deserves a great deal of attention as much as Hemsworth, it’d be, no duh, Shannon as Chief Warrant Officer Hal Spencer. Has this man ever churned out a bad performance? Every scene he’s in, he almost steals. From his fierce defense of Mitch as a field Captain, his heart-breaking farewell to his family, and his celebration of Mitch telling his superiors the what-for on their strategies, he’s got some seriously great moments. Funny enough, despite being one of the best nuanced dramatic actors working today, my favorite scenes are the comedy. Most of the soldiers in this unit have never ridden horses. While half get used to it, the other half reunite with the team, and who’s at the front on horseback? Hal, looking about as miserable as a crazed McDonalds customer who didn’t get his szechuan sauce. He has to be helped off the horse, once his feet are on the ground, barely standing up, one of the guys says, “Hey, Chief, twenty bucks if you can stand up straight.” You can see Hal contemplating trying to stand to get that twenty before he says, “Keep that twenty.” I couldn’t stop laughing, he was in so much pain.
But comedy and charm are all well and good, it’s the human moments that need to be acknowledged more than anything, and this movie does that pretty well too. There’s a good scene with Mitch after his first battle, contemplating his first kills, and in comes Coffers (Geoff Stults) who tries to comfort him with knowing that if he’s bothered by it, that’s the sign that he’s still human. There’s this little kid that shadows Sgt. Ben Milo (Trevante Rhodes), that’s got some really good stuff, especially toward the end. And seriously, this might be the only role in Riggle’s career that I actually liked. That was unexpected.
I do, however, have one issue with the movie. It’s a brief moment and only a couple of scenes long, but it’s there and it bothers me.
So Mitch is trying to bomb the Taliban, I forget if this was the first or the second time, but after the bombing, tanks suddenly appear and it’s a result of Dostum not sharing information that he withheld from Mitch, resulting in several deaths of Dostum’s men. The obvious question is, why didn’t he share that information with Mitch? Mitch confronts the man about is, and what’s his answer? Because Mitch fights too much with his head, instead of his heart. I am not even joking. Oh, I know that he goes into a better reason later, but let’s stay in focus. What kind of horseshit is that?! These are trained soldiers, good soldiers, here to help take back control of the country that was taken over by the wrong people! How does it strategically help him get closer to victory by not letting his allies know important information, like the enemy has tanks that no one saw?! And for such a petty reason like, “You don’t fight with your heart.” Well, fuck you too, man! I really hope this was a clumsy bit of creative liberty because that seems especially stupid. Hell, even when Dostum comes out and says that there was another reason why he didn’t share that info, that reason didn’t seem much better. Nothing petty, and I won’t pretend to remember what those reasons were, but I don’t remember them being especially compelling either. This is about the only bad sequence thing about the movie that I didn’t like. Maybe someone in the military who reads this can better explain it to me and it’ll make a little more sense, but… yeah, as it stands, I stand by my words. Pretty dumb.
Overall, this film is really good. Good directing, solid writing, wonderful acting, intense action, engaging drama, it’s a damn fine watch. I recommend it in theaters at full price. I don’t think it’s movie of the year or anything, but it’s an interesting story and it’s well worth seeing. I don’t think I’d see it again in theaters, but maybe one more time when it comes out for rental and or streaming. Saddle up, lock and load, and follow the first men who punched back at terrorism.
My honest rating for 12 STRONG: 4/5
PS: Interested in knowing more details about Task Force Dagger? Well, the film is an adaptation of the book, Horse Soldiers, by Doug Stanton. Pick up your own copy at Amazon and get the full scope of what these men did.