12 Strong Clears Up My Misconceptions about The War in Afghanistan (Review)

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Man, am I ever the wrong person to review 12 Strong.  I can see that it’s well made but I just don’t get War Movies.  I know nothing about guns or missiles or tactics, so it’s like Sci-Fi to me – very badly explained Sci-Fi (with terrible special effects) that everyone else seems to understand easily but I don’t.  I had only the vaguest idea what was going on in Afghanistan after 9/11 and I definitely had some misconceptions.  At the very least I had assumed America was at a supreme advantage – I mean how hard is it to call in an airstrike?  Pretty hard, as it turns out.  It’s not easy to get right and if you don’t, you just end up bombing the wrong thing (usually empty desert).  12 Strong was, at the very least, educational to me.

12 Strong tells the story of the first Special Forces team deployed to Afghanistan after 9/11; under the leadership of a new captain, the team must work with an Afghan warlord to take down for the Taliban.


It’s really hard to make a narrative out of true events.  You’d think it would be easy because you know what happens, but life occurs in a tremendously boring way.  Stuff just happens. Fiction can’t afford to do that; events have to unfold in a way that builds tension, reveals character and has a big payoff at the end.  You could just see where the filmmakers were trying to weave what actually happened into a coherent story, washing out the tedium and happenstance and making it fit into something they could put on the big screen.  However important their mission was, marching through a desert on horseback for three weeks is not, by itself,  compelling action.  Remember, they couldn’t just add conflict, no sudden aliens or plague outbreaks, they were only allowed  to include things that actually happened.

They did a good job.  Sure 12 Strong is a little long, sure there wasn’t a great moment of despair out right before triumph, sure I had to wonder how much horses would actually put up with, but still, it was impressively well made.  Where the film really shines was the tiny little details. It’s obvious they worked with actual soldiers to get the actual feel of what it’s like being there. The way soldiers would alternate so one was always shooting when the other was reloading.  The little rituals soldiers have, the mess, the difficulties getting supply drops, the bureaucracy, the weather –  all these details rang true.  

The acting was particularly good.  There seemed to be such chemistry between all the characters.  My favorite, of course, was Chris Hemsworth even though he kept his shirt on. It’s unfair of me to objectify him and he’s a good actor even shirted, but still it was still sad.  Also Nabid Negahban was amazing.  His acting wasn’t overstated, there was no Oscar Monologue, but there was something in his facial expressions and body language and the tone of his voice that was absolutely convincing.

So is 12 Strong worth watching?  No idea.  Probably.   It’s hard to critique things I don’t know about – I only do that when I’m drunk and unafraid of the Dunning-Kruger effect.  Interesting to see that the Taliban have joined the ranks of Perfect Villains, along with Nazis and zombies.  They are just so cartoonishly evil in real life too.  The thing that gets me is that from all that I know, they’re like that in real life too. Probably the subject for another film.  

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