Review: 12 Strong | Redbrick | University of Birmingham

Review: 12 Strong

Film Critic Ellen Macleod decides whether true-story-war-film 12 Strong is worth riding into battle with

Used to flashy action films with over the top plots, cliché lines and the token death of a comrade to spur everyone on, at first it takes a while to adjust to this film. 12 Strong tells the true story of the Horse Soldiers; twelve special forces operatives who are sent into Afghanistan in response to the 9/11 attack, to help an Afghan warlord remove the Taliban from the country. Without near extraction or close American back up, the chances of survival were very low.

The stubborn comradeship, dark banter between the soldiers and stunning Afghan scenery wins you over, and the film transforms into a something much richer than expected

At the beginning there doesn’t seem enough to this film; there isn’t the expected emotional sub plot or token death and it is, at first, wanting in both plot and character. The film is almost too close to reality to be interesting, which paints a bleak picture of our reception of reality. However, the stubborn comradeship, dark banter between the soldiers and stunning Afghan scenery wins you over, and the film transforms into a something much richer than expected. The characters are not the flashy, ripped Americans we are used to, like Mark Wahlberg, or Dwayne ‘the Rock’ Johnson, we don’t even see Chris Hemsworth’s abs once, ONCE! Instead the characters we get feel real, and are characterised as such; providing a much more powerful effect than a gung-ho trigger-happy yank that we have seen so many times before.

The first hour or so of the film feels very much like a documentary. The uninspiring soundtrack, constant reminder that this is built on reality, and the impenetrable military jargon created the sense that the audience was watching something that didn’t have enough spirit to be a film. This is typified by the films repeated emphasis that the  Taliban are inherently evil, shown in a variety of ill-fitting, gory scenes throughout that give the film a propaganda feel. The humour, however, was a surprise. This film is funny, in a dark way, in fitting with its setting in a war zone. General Dostum frequently radios the enemy, just to insult them, and the jokes between the soldiers never stop. The humour humanised the characters, made them likeable, and only then were the audience drawn in.

The true star is Navid Negahban, who plays General Dostum, an Afghan warlord in the Northern alliance

12 Strong is directed by Nicolai Fuglsig, a Danish director and an odd choice for a film considering his sparse Imdb page, which featuring just three films begs the question: How the hell did this guy land the gig of directing a movie starring Chris Hemsworth? Fuglsig’s varied career answers this question. His photojournalism career led him to the Kosovo war, where he ended up making a short documentary. This in turn led him to an award-winning career as an advertising director. His experience of war, directing adverts and his 1999 book on nuclear disaster (?) seem to all collectively prepare him for the role of director of 12 Strong, and there is no discernible weakness on show.

Chris Hemsworth’s lack of abdominal flaunting in this film suggests his move into a more serious phase of his career. His acting is good but unremarkable. The true star is Navid Negahban, who plays General Dostum, an Afghan warlord in the Northern alliance. Dostum’s family was murdered by the Taliban, and the film quietly depicts his journey to revenge. Nagahban’s acting is easily overlooked, but magnificent and he was truly the highlight of the film. The film overall seems to rely on acting power, which it just about manages to get away with. The sparse plot, lack of stunts and reliance on the majestic scenery suggests that this film threw at least half its budget on explosives. Yes, the film details the usefulness and efficiency of American bombs, but after the 1000th slow mo shot of an explosion, the wow factor wore a bit thin.

Verdict: On the surface this film has something for everyone. Big guns and bigger explosions for the gents, horses and Hemsworth for the ladies. However t is more then that, the idea of a Northern alliance, mounted warriors and stunning scenery create a film which can only be described as Lord of the Rings meets the War on Terror. Whilst it is a good film, the end cannot escape the dull first half. 12 Strong was half a superb film and half a dull documentary.  

Rating: 6/10

Hi! I'm Ellen, I love films and I love writing about them more. Always trying to improve so drop me a comment if you have any ideas!



Published

6th February 2018 at 9:00 am



Images from

12strongmovie.com



Share