Inspiring re-enactment of Task Force Dagger, the mission of an elite group of American Soldiers with their Northern Alliance allies who fought the Taliban against overwhelming odds in Afghanistan weeks after the 9/11 atrocity.
I once had a coffee cup with the inscription: "Do not annoy the writer or she might put you in a book and kill you." Similarly, I might advise: "If you are the commanding officer of an aspiring actor, be nice or he might end up portraying you in a movie." Such is just one piece of serendipitous trivia in 12 Strong, a movie which cinematically tells how an elite group of our soldiers volunteered to go to Afghanistan for a trip which, but for the grace of God, should have been a suicide mission, entering a country and city they knew little about to work with a local insurgent who might have sold them out for their $100,000 a piece bounty, to fight 5,000 to 1 odds on foot and horseback to guide air drops against an entrenched vicious Taliban using tanks and armored artillary.
The script is based upon the experiences of a group of American elite military forces led by Mark Nutsch, who is renamed Mitch Nelson in the movie and played by Thor – I mean Chris Hemsworth. And let us not forget that Hemsworth also was George Kirk during the best 15 minutes of cinematic science fiction at the beginning of the 2009 Star Trek reboot. I only mention these movies to remind you that Hemsworth is fantastic at playing noble, courageous heroes. And he once again is awesome in 12 Strong. (As a side note, Captain Nutsch has mentioned that being played by "Thor" has gotten him some serious brownie points with his kids.)
The story is of the special forces sent weeks after the 9/11 World Trade Center/Pentagon attack and is based upon the book Horse Soldiers by Doug Stanton. Rounding out the cast with Hemsworth is Michael Shannon (Zod from Man of Steel and lead baddie in The Shape of Water), Michael Pena (Collaterol Beauty, Ant Man and The Martian), Navid Negahban who plays General Dostum – leader of the Northern Alliance fighters and later Vice President of freed Afghanistan, who teamed with Nutsch's group for real and who is, to this day, friends with Nutsch. William Fichtner (Armaggedeon, Batman: The Dark Knight) as Col. John Mulholland and Rob Riggle a comedian and United States Marine Corps Reserve Lieutenant Colonel who, in a quirk of fate, plays his former commanding officer, Lt Col. Max Bowers. Fichtner and Riggle are the only ones who play officers going by their real names. There really was a Col Bowers and Col Mulholland participating in this extraordinary military operation. And as a side note, to lend further points of solid credibility to the chemistry of the cast, Elsa Pataky, Hemsworth's real life wife plays his REEL "life" wife, Jean Nelson.
I had difficulty trying to find the actual names of the other soldiers who were part of the team. As it turns out they prefer, in classic hero fashion, to retain the anonymity which was at first required on this top secret mission. Mark Nutsch, the inspiration for Michael Nelson only came forward when the movie was green lighted in order to help with the authenticity. These men were not given any recognition at the time for the miraculous feat they performed.
I have a Jewish friend who likes to playfully sum up the history of the Israelites in the Old Testament as: "They tried to kill us, we fought, we won, let’s eat!"
This sentiment pretty well sums up the forthright, pragmatic and confident attitude of the military with which America is blessed. Not looking for praise or parades they simply go in, perform their duty and come home. Not withstanding they "go in" after leaving their stalwart sacrificing wives and children, that they "perform their duty" against sometimes overwhelming odds, or that they might "come home" permanently maimed, severely injured….or in a coffin.
It’s about time these men, who struck the first blow for America subsequent to the cowardly and evil act of terrorism wrought upon our country on September 11, 2001, received some acknowledgment.
I had a friend ask if I was looking forward to this movie. I emphatically exclaimed: "Thor on horseback riding against tanks! What’s NOT to like!!!" And like it I did. Hemsworth and the rest of the cast perform with infectious camaraderie, conveying the depth of trust each of those real soldiers they portrayed had for each other. Filmed in New Mexico the rugged Afghan terrain is convincingly pictured. The battle scenes are breathtaking. And it is not spoiler, because it is in the trailer, that, indeed, these men wound their way through merciless fire against ridiculous odds side by side with their Afghanistan Northern Alliance allies, like the Light Brigade, on horseback, into ferocious tank and artillary fire. These men boldly and selflessly offered their lives to stop the brutal stranglehold of torture and repression the Taliban and Al Qaeda had against the locals and prevent further attacks on our country. Their push into the merciless enemy's stronghold broke the back of Al Qaeda and had them fleeing to Pakistan.
There have been some criticism against the details of the mission – for example: did they really ride the horses into battle against tanks? Frankly I don’t care. We get far too few movies with the guts and gusto to demonstrate the every day bravery and selfless dedication of our American soldiers to our protection and freedom. It’s about time we returned to the likes of Patton, Green Beret, The Longest Day and The Great Escape – where the matter-of-fact patriotic heroics of our American military is a given and we should be rightly very proud and joyously celebrate their accomplishments.
I am unconcern with any modest cinematic license which might have been taken to enhance the telling of this amazing story.
PS – Assuming the web page is accurate, if you want to find out more about the accuracy of the movie 12 Strong to the actual events they portray check out: How Accurate is 12 Strong? SHORT TAKE: Almost every bit is detail-accurate.