Tuesday, February 6, 2018

12 Strong

This movie, based on Doug Stanton's book Horse Soldiers, dramatizes the first top-secret U.S. anti-terror mission in Afghanistan after 9/11/2001, in which 12 soldiers on horseback, led by a captain with no combat experience, called in air strikes to help a later vice-president of Afghanistan retake a strategic Taliban-held city - all within three weeks, and with no loss of American life. Starring Chris Hemsworth, Michael Shannon, Michael Peña, William Fichtner, and Navid Negahban of TV's "Homeland," along with other more or less familiar faces, it's an often exciting, sometimes grim, occasionally thoughtful and sensitive, look at war in "the graveyard of empires," with a bit of philosophy of being a warrior woven in, and a couple stomach-turning scenes of a radical Islamic mullah performing his shtick. My only complaint is the slightly anticlimactic form the horse soldiers' victory in Mazar-i-Sharif takes.

Because my recreational writing time is seriously limited, I'm going to confine this review to my customary "Three Scenes that Made It For Me": (1) Fitchner (as Col. Mulholland) interviews Hemsworth (as Capt. Mitch Nelson) for the job of leading the team. After bristling at Hemsworth's repeated, know-it-all interruptions, he surprisingly comments (ballpark quote): "Of the five guys I've seen for this job - and the other four have 100 years of combat experience between them - you're the only one who gets it." (2) Afghan Gen. Dostum (Negahban) deflects Nelson's demands to be kept in the loop about the tactical situations their men will be facing together, accusing him of being merely a "soldier" versus a "warrior." Later, when Dostum puts his rivalry with another warloard ahead of his anti-Taliban mission, Nelson throws it back in his face: "You're not a warrior. You're just a warlord." Ouch. (3) Something about the way Michael Shannon's character, being med-evac'ed by helicopter after receiving a sucking chest wound in a suicide bombing, watches his team gallop into action as his chopper flies away. The moment really grabbed me.

No comments: