Main cast: Chris Hemsworth (Captain Mitch Nelson), Michael Shannon (Chief Warrant Officer Cal Spencer), Michael Peña (Sergeant First Class Sam Diller), Navid Negahban (General Abdul Rashid Dostum), Trevante Rhodes (Sergeant First Class Ben Milo), Geoff Stults (Sean Coffers), Thad Luckinbill (Vern Michaels), William Fichtner (Colonel John Mulholland), Elsa Pataky (Jean Nelson), Austin Stowell (Staff Sergeant Fred Falls), Ben O’Toole (Scott Black), Austin Hébert (SFC Pat Essex), Kenneth Miller (Kenny Jackson), Kenny Sheard (Sergeant First Class Bill Bennett), Jack Kesy (Charles Jones)
Director: Nicolai Fuglsig
12 Strong tells the true story of the previously hushed-up Dagger Task Force, a team of the US Special Forces in Afghanistan to help the local warlord General Abdul Rashid Dostum in seizing Mazar-i-Sharif from the Taliban. The fall of Mazar-i-Sharif is said to be one of the biggest blows against the Taliban in the wake of the 9/11 tragedy, and if you go by this movie, it’s entirely due to the titanic strength and shooting abilities, not to mention superior intellect, of twelve Americans that dragged the childish, petulant Dostum to the finish line.
The team, led by Thor, comprises Michael Peña, Michael Shannon, a guy with glasses who seems to be the doctor, a black guy, and… uh, the rest, also help to shower poor, oppressed Afghans who are friends of America with love when they are not demonstrating the superiority of USA. So millions of people die in the wars in the Middle-East, whatever – 9/11 is all that matters and America is taking some kickass revenge! So many Afghan allies die in this movie, but who cares? We are only supposed to root for the twelve US people here, and wonder whether that guy will get medical attention in time – as opposed to those unnamed, who-the-hell-cares natives who receive similar or worse injuries.
Insultingly condescending and patronizing, 12 Strong is a movie made for and cares only about appeasing the American-centric viewpoint. It tells of a world where millions may die, but the September 11 attack is particularly terrible because someone attacks the US and that is the worst thing ever as only American lives matter in the scheme of things.
Look, I am not one of those special snowflakes who will scream Islamophobia at even a little negative portrayal of Muslims. I live in a part of the world where I get to see the hideous state of affairs that will result when we let fundamentalists run the mad house, and I’m all for putting an end to the power of ISIS, Taliban, and other terrorist factions that use religion as a means to suppress human rights, indulge in acts of barbaric atrocity, and more. In many ways, this movie is preaching to the choir where I am concerned.
But at the same time, this movie also pushes a horrific, insulting agenda in which the allies of America are portrayed as mere collateral damage and useless idiots at best. The real Dostum is certainly a twat, but in the context of this movie, the canonification of the twelve American soldiers as gung-ho heroes while Dostum is a childish mule and his army a bunch of nameless, blindly loyal ragtag backward hicks with terrible aim and starving for even a scrap of affection from America… this is all very fine from the perspective of an American audience, perhaps, but as someone who is not American, I find the whole thing unnecessarily insulting. Make more movies like this and you will get the answer as to why people outside the US roll up their eyes when it comes to American propaganda.
The characters here are all one-dimensional, even Thor whose only trait is that he is somehow magnificently genius with superior aim and looks even if he has never actually been in a battle before. Scenes are made of full clichés right down to the large, spacious perfect houses that apparently all American soldiers have. The only cliché missing is the death of a soldier after showing off the picture of the wife and daughter, but that’s only because in real life all twelve soldiers survived, so no, we can’t use that one here, drats.
At the end of the day, 12 Strong will work for an US audience seeking validation that their country and military are the best and are solely responsible for every decisive victory in the world. If you’re anything like me, though, be prepared to roll up your eyes and snort quite often throughout the two hours and ten minutes of this chest-thumping, self-aggrandizing thing.