Rated: R for war violence and language throughout. Reviewed by: Jim Release date: January 19, 2018 Released by: Warner Brothers
Uber-producer Jerry Bruckheimer and Chris Hemsworth (Thor Ragnarok) team up for a jingoistic, garden-variety war movie which will likely appeal to the current administration more than The Post.
A fact-based visually rousing 12 Strong (from Doug Stanton's 2009 novel Horse Soldiers) doesn't measure up to others of its ilk like Lone Survivor or American Sniper, feeling more like a bewildering, patriotic John Wayne heavy-handed, old-fashioned starrer, 1968s The Green Berets; or closer to the recent 13 Hours or much earlier, Pearl Harbor.
A timeliness is sorely lacking in Nicolai Fuglsig's first-time behind the camera (having been a photojournalist and commercials director) surrounding a dozen of U.S. Special Forces (and CIA paramilitary officers) launching a dicey retaliation against al-Qaeda in Afghanistan shortly after the 9/11 terror attacks.
Hemsworth's true grit manifests in his reserved, family man Capt. Mitch Nelson who wants to step up for his country during a scary aftermath while on desk duty. Mitch is able to corral a group of men, including Hal Spencer (Michael Shannon) and wisecracking Sam Diller (Michael Pena), to vigorously respond in unfamiliar hilly environs with sure-hoofed steeds quite outnumbered against tank-fortified units. Aiming for a resonant mood modulation doesn't really offer much to this seemingly critical, but not really major offensive.
The depiction of America in a knotty situation in Afghanistan, especially from the political angle doesn't have the necessary subtext or historical perspective (not allowing Hemsworth to burrow into Mitch say like he did to a degree for Michael Mann in Blackhat or more so for Ron Howard in Rush). Only during the end-credits scroll does its makers emphasize the classified operation's importance.
The script concocted by Ted Tally and Peter Craig doesn't provide much latitude or beyond the contrived or time-worn even as a cute, nagging local Afghan lad helps to figure in a tragic denouement for at least one fraught infantryman.
The rashness to get back to the Middle East (with important B-52 support) and sating fans of the genre doesn't succeed with doleful pride even if the performances often exude authoritative virility. More gravitas and stimulating grit comes by way of Iranian-American actor Navid Negahban as Northern Alliance Afghan Gen. Abdul Dostum reluctant to commit to the cavalry riding into his perilous neck-of-the-woods. Maybe the title is a misnomer given the resistance against platitudes by Negahban (a menacing figure on the small-screen cable hit Homeland).
A fairly striking portrait from a plausible New Mexico shoot has dark-horse determination in exciting battle stages with Fuglsig utilizing his talents with lenser Rasmus Videbaek to give an enervating tale some of that old Western éclat. Even if Bruckheimer and Hemsworth don't ultimately make it as enthralling as Thor duking it out with The Hulk.