The U.S. Special Forces is a tough, elite and highly classified position. Acts of heroism never get the ticker tape parade, and that’s kind of the point. These soldiers are supposed to slip in and out of secret missions without making the evening news. “12 Strong” tells just one of those extraordinary stories, fought in Afghanistan’s mountains in winter 2001.
The film is based on Doug Stanton’s book “Horse Soldiers,” about a Special Forces team that wages war on the Taliban on horseback after 9/11.
“12 Strong” unfolds as a procedural. The men simply execute the mission. They don’t ask many questions, and they focus on personal vendettas and reasons to go home.
Chris Hemsworth stars as Mitch Nelson, a new captain who has never seen war. He impresses the higher-ups enough to send his team, Task Force Dagger, to embed with an Afghani general. The task is to call in airstrikes on the Taliban while fighting through an unforgiving territory. Nelson promises he can do it in three weeks with 12 men.
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We’re given motivation to hate the Taliban with that tired trope of a scene of violence against women, to justify the airstrikes the Americans call in again and again. The only sly political commentary is a few cracks about how short they expect the war to be, and a few warnings about nations who have come before.
The film never delves deep enough to examine the larger U.S. involvement and those ramifications, but “12 Strong” infuses heart and character into this adrenaline-fueled war film, exploring how and why men fight.
Rated R for war violence and language throughout. 130 minutes. AMC Classic, Fayette, Frankfort, Georgetown, Hamburg, Nicholasville, Richmond, Winchester.