While most of us are more than aware that a certain amount of dramatic embellishment is to be expected from any adaptation based on real events, it is sometimes impossible to ignore to what level the truth can be stretched to accommodate those telling the story, and whether dramatisation for the sake of dramatisation can help or hinder said project.
In the case of Nicolai Fuglsig’s 12
Set in the aftermath of 9/11, 12 Strong tells the story of the first Special Forces team deployed to Afghanistan after the World Trade Centre attacks in 2001. Under the leadership of new captain Mitch Nelson (Chris Hemsworth), the team must work with Afghan warlord General Dostum (Navid Negahban) to take down the Taliban and some of their Al Qaeda allies believed to be hiding deep in the Afghan mountains. To complicate things further, the unit hopes to complete its mission in a race against time, and hopefully make it back to their loved ones unharmed in time for Christmas.
Staring alongside Hemsworth, is twice Academy Awards nominee Michael Shannon in the role of semi-retired officer Hal Spencer who is back for one last job. Shannon brings a great deal of solemn composure to a role which would have otherwise gone unnoticed, while Michael Peña provides some light relief as the unit’s loveable joker Sam Diller. The rest of the film is a mixture between a full-on war movie and an old fashioned western where our heroes are expected to do battle on horseback against heavily armed enemy forces.
Hemsworth does a great job in offering Mitch Nelson as an all-American hero wanting to do what it takes in the name of his country. However the real revelation comes courtesy of Navid Negahban who puts in a truly astonishing performance as Dostum, the general who will later become the first president of a free Afghanistan.
Director Nicolai Fuglsig does an adequate job on the technical front – some of the action sequences are truly stunning- but the film is sadly let down by a highly predictable screenplay and a dialogue which doesn’t fare much better. All in all a big noisy war movie which does exactly what is expected from it, but just don’t expect its politics to be challenged beyond what we’ve heard and seen hundreds of times before. A solid war movie which otherwise relies too much on cliched ideas and which is perhaps unlikely to sit well politically with some audiences due to its hawkish narrative.
12 Strong is on general release from Friday January 26th