12 Strong is a pleasure to sit down and view, despite the serious subject matter in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, where the first Special Forces team was deployed to Afghanistan on a mission to work with an Afghan warlord to take down the Taliban. The Taliban considers this mission one of their worst defeats, when the Green Berets took over Afghanistan and opened the door for other Special Forces and the American military to begin the more openly observable war. This true story of heroism portrays the bravery Captain Mitch Nelson (Chris Hemsworth), Hal Spencer (Michael Shannon), Sam Diller (Michael Pena) and nine other soldiers contained when they courageously left behind their families to fight in honor of America, literally riding on horseback into a warzone. Though their enemies had tanks; America owned the skies.
If you’re a fan of the war genre, your eyes will indulge when American soldiers fire assault weapons while riding on war horses along the magnificent backdrop of the picturesque mountains of pseudo-Afghanistan, photographed stunningly by cinematographer Rasmus Videbaek (The Dark Tower) who brilliantly used New Mexico as a stand in. Seeing American Green Berets galloping on horseback amid the magnificent pseudo-Afghan lands makes you feel like you’re watching a modern-day war western. Any viewer who’s never ridden a horse will appreciate the brief education Captain Nelson gives his team on how to ride one. Nonetheless, the grave subject matter is no place for the appreciation of beauty, for both the Afghans and the Americans endured an inordinate amount of pain after 9/11. For the US, this was our initial response to the horrific attack on the World Trade Center on September 11th and for the Afghans, this film gives justice to their ongoing struggle of being a part of a nation that has been perpetually invaded for ages.
“There are no right choices in Afghanistan. If the Americans stay here, they become our enemies, and, if they leave, they become cowards.” A line of dialogue performed brilliantly by Iranian actor Navid Negahban (Homeland), as General Abdul Rashid Dostum, the ethnic Uzbek, Afghan born warlord who served as Vice President of Afghanistan. In 12 Strong, General Dostum fights the Taliban, who are ruthless humans holding an utterly false perception of Islam. The only divine book in Islam is the Holy Quran and nowhere in its entirety does it proclaim such preposterous commandments that young girls are not authorized to be educated.
There is a disturbing scene, authentically performed by its actors, where the film’s villain, Taliban warlord Mullah Ruzzan (Numan Acar, Homeland), executes an Afghan woman in front of her husband and their three daughters because of the education she provided to her children. After the execution, the surrounding Taliban militants fire their weapons into the sky chanting “God is great” in Arabic, in which Ruzzan then raises a thin paperback book above his head that’s filled with absolutely false decrees of Islamic law which were inaccurately written centuries after Prophet Muhammad’s death by contaminated and corrupted men who were not authorized messengers of God. These poor souls of the Taliban believe they will be rewarded in the hereafter for perpetrating such wickedness. True Islam, which never came to see the light of day, would have stood for complete freedom of will in all of Gods children on earth and nowhere does the divine Holy Quran authorize such atrocities. “I remember when woman wore no veils, girls went to school, and we had movies.” Said General Dostum in 12 Strong, who reveals the true nature of Islam’s only divine book, the Holy Quran, where in the books entirety, nowhere does it proclaim that women must wear a veil.
The quick pacing of the film was directed with unvarying proficiency in such a way that the film felt shorter than its 2 hour and 10-minute length. Nicolai Fuglsig, who came fresh off the Sci-Fi/War film Exfil, directed a script written by Academy Award Winner Ted Tally (Silence of the Lambs) and Peter Craig (The Town). In the first 10 minutes of 12 Strong, we know we’re gearing up for an adventurous time and more importantly, we’re given genuine empathy toward our heroes and their mission. Even though it’s a cliched character goal we’ve seen so much in the banalities of the war genre, we sincerely want to see these heroes return home to their families, particularly when we’re given hints that some of our heroes may not survive.
The filmmakers of 12 Strong do a remarkable job in portraying the struggles behind the people of a war-torn nation. It’s a story about Afghanistan as much as it is about great American soldiers, who fearlessly went into dangerous territory on a covert operation in honor of our country on September 12, 2001. At the films climax, you might find yourself clenching your fists and raising them up high in victory for both America and Afghanistan.