Some movies are meant to merely entertain. Some are intended to push our perception of societal norms. Then there are a select few releases which are designed to honor someone or some act of historical significance. Such is the case with director Nicolai Fuglsig’s first feature film, 12 Strong. Rather than setting out to make one of the more compelling tales hallow, Fuglsig demonstrates a remarkable amount of restraint. Instead of glorifying the death and havoc that comes with being at war, 12 Strong focuses on the extraordinary sacrifices made by Task Force Dagger. While to some that may seem like a misstep, in reality, it’s the proper approach.
In the interest of being transparent, I went into the screening not knowing a single detail about this film. How crazy is it that in this day and age, a band of military men on horses were able to fight off the Taliban. It was this operation which resulted in the Northern Alliance regaining control of Mazar-i-Sharif (an enemy stronghold). Chris Hemsworth plays Mitch Nelson, the commander of Task Force Dagger. Micheal Shannon, Trevante Rhodes, Micheal Pena, William Fichtner, and Rob Riggle round out the supporting cast.
The relationship which stood out most to me was the one between Nelson and General Dostum of the North Alliance. Nelson and Dostum are both extremely prideful men, and each one point has to put that aside for the good of the mission. Nelson just wants to blow the Taliban back to the stone ages, but Dostum reminds him of the difficulties surrounding this. The reality facing the Americans is no army has ever achieved a sustained victory in Afghanistan, a fact which remains true even to this day.
Cinematographer Rasmus Videbaek provided shots which were brisk and bold keeping the eyes on the action unfolding in each battle sequence. Videbaek also knew when to allow the camera to pan slightly in each direction allowing the audience to see the vast emptiness of their surroundings. The attention to details stood out as well. If nothing else this film comes off as more of a celebration of these men and the odds which they overcame. The film also tapped into the conundrum which has plagued the United States from the very moment they’ve stepped foot into Afganistan. If the Americans were to leave their country, they would be viewed as cowards by the Afghani people and if they stayed in the country, the citizens would revolt. The film doesn’t seek to solve this issue and give frontline perspective.
Overall, the film is simply constructed, but the reverence shown in the performance of the cast makes 12 Strong well worth the price of admission.