After the attack on 9/11, Captain Mitch Nelson (Chris Hemsworth) returns from leave to get his team back to head to the Middle East to stop Al Qaeda from carrying out their next attack. His team, consisting of Hal Spencer (Michael Shannon), Sam Diller (Michael Peña), Ben Milo (Trevante Rhodes), Sean Coffers (Geoff Stults), Vern Michaels (Thad Luckinbill), Fred Falls (Austin Stowell), Pat Essex (Austin Hébert) Scott Black (Ben O’Toole), Kenny Jackson (Kenneth Miller), Bill Bennett (Kenny Sheard), and Charles Jones (Jack Kesy), board a flight to Afghanistan.
As the first team going into the war, Nelson’s crew sets off to meet up with General Abdul Rashid Dostrum (Navid Negahban), one of the local warlords. These warlords, while they may not be entirely trustworthy, hate the Taliban and may be the key to winning the war. The team is flown 9 hours away from the base to get to Dostrum. This means that any help, should they need it, is also 9 hours away, leaving them basically on their own.
With only six horses available, the team is split in half. Spencer is left at a location referred to as the Alamo with some of the men while Nelson and the rest travel by horseback through the desolate landscape to a remote cave. Nelson is supposed to travel with Dostrum to Taliban strongholds to call in airstrikes. As the first airstrike misses, Nelson finds his detachment under attack from the Taliban soldiers.
Since they are traveling on horseback with only the weapons they can carry, Nelson and Dostrum are hopelessly out numbered and out gunned by the Taliban. They further split the American team in hopes of cutting off the Taliban supply line. Taking out a major Taliban garrison is the first step in taking back the city of Mazar-i-Sharif and destabilizing their control of the country. Hoping to overcome insurmountable odds, Nelson sets his plan in motion.
Based on the true story of Captain Nelson and his men, 12 Strong shares the story of a very brave group of soldiers as they set out to take down the Taliban.
Chris Hemsworth is a natural leader on screen. This movie is no exception. After submitting for a position change, once the need arises, he is ready to get back into the action. Even if this means leaving his wife, played by his real wife Elsa Pataky. He doesn’t waver even in the face of danger. His singular thought is to make his mission a success without losing any of his men. Michael Shannon sheds his typical sleazy, bad guy image to play Hemsworth’s second in command. It is a convincing performance. Michael Peña adds a bit of his sarcastic wit, giving the film the tiniest bit of levity without turning the film into something it shouldn’t be.
Visually, the film is necessarily busy. So much happens to the group of soldiers that it has no choice. Going to battle with a more well equipped army, some of the scenes are almost unbelievable. Some of this may be artistic license taken with the story, but the facts of the story give it credibility. With so much going on, you really need to see it in a theater to take it all in.
12 Strong, while maybe not the best war movie, tells the harrowing true story of a brave group of men who volunteer to go into the heart of the battle to protect their country. It begs to be seen on a big screen, but if you wait to rent it, you can still appreciate the story.