The World Trade Center attack, a day that will forever live on in the history of the American society. From this event, our military launched a new war that targeted terrorism, and the escalating threats that hid in the shadows. We’ve had plenty of tales about the heroes who acted on that day, uncovered the leads to locating the leaders of the attack, and potential occupations of territories of those who might continue their work. This weekend, yet another campaign heavy feature comes to theaters entitled 12 strong, the declassified story of the Horsemen who fought back. What lies in this political drama? Robbie K here to answer that question in hopes of guiding your viewing pleasures. Let’s’ move out!
The Pace: Some military dramas get lost in all the political jargon and build up, but this movie manages to dive through that medium quickly to get to what you want to see. While the opening hour is on the slower side and dialogue heavy, it eventually takes off when the first battles begin to rock out. From there, the rest of the movie is tense ride, moving at a consistent speed to bring suspense and intensity at what lies in the Middle Eastern range.
The Dialogue: The story of the horsemen may be action heavy focused, but my buddy and I agreed that the dialogue was well done in this movie. One component is between the soldiers, a realistic, almost natural, exchange of insults, jabs, and venting that represents the bond the soldiers have. Well-timed jokes relieve some of the tension, and the comedic punch is subtle but perfect to get a good laugh out of you. When the action starts up, you’ll get your feel of military jargon, as the soldiers call out strategic maneuvers and call in air strikes utilizing the coordinates. While not the most creative writing here, it’s a component that helps pull you into the heat of the moment. The strongest writing though, comes in the philosophical debates between Captain Mitch (Chris Hemsworth) and General Dostum (Navid Negahban). A contest of wills takes place numerous time between the two leaders, and in it contains Hollywood inspired lines designed to open your minds to bravery, empathy, and what it means to fight. These moments are the most moving, and in it a great study on the hell war truly is.
The Messages: The dialogue does much of the lifting in this category, but 12 Strong also has enough visual representation on the culture of the battlefield that was the war on terror. Perhaps there is some studio magic to gloss up things, the movie did a solid job portraying the Arabic cultures and approaches to war on all sides. Honor and dignity are heavy in the population, and not all factions are as heated as the terrorism associated with it. Seeing this duality not only supports the dramatic storytelling, but does a solid job at educating the audience that not everyone out there is an enemy.
Action: Okay now the part you really want to know about. The action of 12 Strong delivers what the trailer promised. Special effects heavy sequences erupt to life as Hemsworth and company unleash their disciplined fury onto the poor extras that are heavy in this film. Exciting gunplay is the main theme of the mix, all sharing a similar foundation, but with some tweaks to help each battle stand out. As many of my fellow reviewers agree, the movie’s final battle is the best of the bunch, packed with emotion, tension, and all out courage and glory that America loves to see as they ride their horses into the fray. A powerful cinematic score will assist in bringing the whole shebang to life. Not the strongest of all the movies I’ve seen, but dang strong in its own right.
Too Long: For a movie that is action packed, you would think that the story could be told in under 2 hours. Yet, this movie was a little too long at points for me. It starts with the delayed opening, taking nearly an hour to get to the first battle the movie promised. Sure, the information is presented in a concise manner, but how much of it was really needed is the question that remains. In addition, the movie took some tangents to give you the whole journey, admirable in terms of capturing every detail, but not done well enough to be fully pertinent to the movie. This story takes some unnecessary tangents that didn’t get the time it needed, acting as quick acknowledgements to the soldier’s lives and nothing more.
Hard To Differentiate Soldiers: Another problem with this movie is how much the soldiers seem to blend together in this movie. You’ve got Hemsworth who sticks out like a sore thumb, and a couple of other members that have a unique quality to them to help differentiate them. Much of the cast though are just bearded big men who all have a vendetta to settle with the terrorists. Sacrificing logical combat gear choices, like helmets and armor, they try to give some visual cues to help each member stand out, but their identities still aren’t really prominent for the audience to grab onto. They relied on Hemsworth too much to do the lifting, letting his good looks do most of the eye grabbing. In addition, none of the other soldiers had strong background development, with only the ones with family getting any glimpse of a life. They try to give a few of them some screen time at parts of the movie by splitting the team, but most of the supporting antics fall to quick sequences that could have been left out.
Army Of One: Exciting as the battles are, 12 strong is more like 1-5 strong in the grand scheme of things. Hemsworth is the soldier whose perspective you’ll get the most of, despite being the member who has had the least combat experience. Where other movies do a nice job of integrating all members of the team in some way, but this film sort of glazed over the contributions of the others. Don’t get me wrong, the other troops have some displays of their skills, but they just don’t have that unique component other military films do. Even the main villain sometimes get lost to the sea of extras, with only some close ups of sneers to shine the spotlight on. Again, the movie relies of Hemsworth to do most of the lifting, and it really could have achieved more had the others been more involved.
When it comes to action films, 12 strong is the leader for the new year at the moment. While the movie starts out slow, the second act gets things going, primarily thanks to the action sequences that are loaded in this movie. Still, the movie manages to get some good dialogue into the mix that, in tandem with the visual effects, does a nice job delivering the emotional messages about the culture of war. However, the movie was a little too long, going down too many paths that, while entertaining, did not provide much to the story. Such a shame, as the other members of the platoon could have used some development to not only add more to the battles, but also help the other cast stand out a little more. Given all these things though, the movie is the pick of the weekend to go see in theaters, due to the special effects and storytelling at hand.
Movie Overall: 6.5