Jerry Bruckheimer productions have been a mixed bag over the years. From the good–The Rock, National Treasure, the first Pirates of the Caribbean, Remember the Titans–to the bad–Kangaroo Jack, The Lone Ranger, Pearl Harbor. With 12 Strong, the latest movie about The Horse Soldiers, it seemed nothing entirely special. Surprisingly, even for a January release, this is a solid tribute to the first responders of the 9/11 attacks.
On September 11, 2001, everybody was watching the news when the two planes flew into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. Capt. Mitch Nelson (Chris Hemsworth) is getting her daughter ready for school until it happened. He becomes the leader of the first U.S. special forces team to head into Afghanistan. Along with Cal Spencer (Michael Shannon), Sam Diller (Michael Peña), Ben Milo (Trevante Rhodes, Moonlight), Max Bowers (Rob Riggle) among others, Nelson joins forces with Gnl. Abdul Rashid Dostum (Navid Negahban) of the Northern Alliance to take down the Taliban and members of al-Qaeda.
Having to play these real-life soldiers sounds like a dream come true to this gifted cast. Particularly Riggle who plays Col. Max Bowers. An interesting fact: Before becoming a comedic actor, we used to be a Marine who actually served under Bowers.
“He was a very proficient leader,” he said. “He knew his stuff, and he cared about his troops, and I thought he was a real professional. So that’s all you can ask for.”
With New Mexico serving as the backdrop of Afghanistan, 12 Strong has strong production values (nothing is more awesome than seeing the soldiers fight into battle on horseback) and steady action set pieces, thanks to Nicolai Fuglsig’s direction and Rasmus Videbæk’s cinematography. Despite the limited character development, Chris Hemsworth and the team do make up for its flaws. It hardly brings anything new to the table and it might be twenty minutes too long. The results are somewhat underwhelming. Also, William Fichtner as Col. Mullholland looks so bizarre with a shaved head that it’s almost impossible not to crack up. Nevertheless, I’m glad I went to see this movie.