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'12 Strong' Review: Winning the Battles but Losing the War

19 January 2018

SIMON THOMPSON, IGN: "Bearing in mind that this is a Jerry Bruckheimer production, 12 Strong is one of his more restrained and considered exercises in hero storytelling even if some of the beats it tries to hit are slightly off".

The Thor star saddles up as an Army Special Forces captain in 12 Strong (★★½ out of four; rated R; in theaters nationwide Friday), a commendable war drama based on the first American military offensive in Afghanistan following 9/11. In addition to overcoming mutual distrust and a vast cultural divide, the Americans-accustomed to state-of-the-art warfare-must adopt the rudimentary tactics of the Afghani horse soldiers.

Demetri Ravanos is a member of the North Carolina Film Critics Association and has reviewed movies for Raleigh and Company, Military1.com and The Alan Kabel Radio Network.

"12 Strong" may not rank with the most memorable war films of all time, but it works hard to entertain, and features just enough substance to merit some thought on its subject. It filmed in and around Albuquerque, Socorro and Alamogordo. "It was very inspirational meeting these guys, knowing their story and dramatize it".

The Special Forces men would often hear trash talk over their two-way radios from the Taliban they were moving in on. "It was a rough shoot, and being in the mountains and caves, it was unbelievable".

Starring Chris Hemsworth, Michael Shannon, Michael Peña, Navid Negahban, Trevante Rhodes, Geoff Stults, Thad Luckinbill, Austin Stowell, Ben O'Toole, Austin Hebert, Kenneth Miller, Kenny Sheard, Jack Kesy, Elsa Pataki, William Fichtner, Rob Riggle, Laith Nakli, Fahim Fazli, and Numan Acar.

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Director Fuglsig's collaborators, who include cinematographer Rasmus Videbaek, editor Lisa Lassek and a skilled battalion of stunt workers and visual-effects artists who have dramatized the challenges with appreciable consistency and precision.

Chris Hemsworth is among the first boots - and hooves - on the ground in Afghanistan after 9/11. Yes, the Taliban is a terrible, senseless terrorist organization, but they're presented in the movie as faceless barbarians, without any context about how they formed or why their motivations are what they are.

Code-named Task Force Dagger, the mission was as much diplomatic as it was military. "The filmmakers make that case mostly with images of September 11 - cut to a man's clenching fist - and through scenes and stories of the Taliban's violence".

Fuglsig was also amazed by the cast, especially Negahban. There's nothing to build on, so Hemsworth just plays the stoicism and charm of the leader without being able to really add any depth. I love that character.

The problem for Nelson and his men is that the trust of a lifelong warrior like Dostum is not easily won.

This was a good war film even if the 12 Americans all seemed to lead charmed lives despite the overwhelming odds stacked against them. So it takes a while, but through the film you will see how they connect with each other, how they truly become blood brothers. But he said the core of the story is true. But perhaps, given the recent spate of post-traumatic tales (Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk, Thank You For Your Service, Last Flag Flying), America needs a bit of pick-me-up bellicosity. ET caught up with Hemsworth and Pataky individually on the red carpet, where they couldn't help but gush about one another while on date night.

'12 Strong' Review: Winning the Battles but Losing the War