Strong movie review: American soldiers against an army that takes no prisoners

Based on Doug Stanton's book, The Horse Soldiers, the nickname of the Army's Fifth Special Forces unit, this is a story of perseverance against all odds and the belief in oneself to confront danger.

12 Strong tells the story of the first Special Forces team deployed to Afghanistan after 9/11; under the leadership of a new captain, the team must work with an Afghan warlord to take down the Taliban.

Nelson is quite confident he can finish a proposed 90-day mission in a third of the time all while playing mind games with General Abdul Rashid Dostum (Navid Negahban), an Uzbek native and former Communist known for flipping sides (note: Dostum is now the vice-president of Afghanistan).

Starring alongside Hemsworth and Negahban are Michael Shannon, Michael Peña, Trevante Rhodes, Geoff Stults, Thad Luckinbill, Austin Stowell, Ben O'Toole, Austin Hébert, Kenneth Miller, Kenny Sheard and Jack Kesy. Over the past few Januaries, we've seen such films as 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi, The Finest Hours and Patriots Day grace movie screens with their tales of true-life valor.

The movie was filmed on in New Mexico and opens nationwide today.

In Afghanistan, the team is up against the same rugged, mountainous terrain that has historically worked to the advantage of the Taliban and their al-Qaida allies.

Peter Travers, ROLLING STONE: "The script doesn't go much beyond the surface in establishing the camaraderie among these men who left their families to take on a battle still being fought".

Mark Nutsch, left, and Bob Pennington at an Atlanta screening of "12 Strong". "That impact can not be denied".

But despite these and other staples of the genre, the film's macho dialogue - inflected with an unsettling gallows humor that renders the real-world gravity of the situation unserious - makes the protagonists of "12 Strong" come across as "all hat and no cattle", to use a common phrase for Western posers.

After watching the tragedy that unfolded in NY on 9/11, Captain Mitch Nelson (Chris Hemsworth) barges into his local station office and demands that his request to be placed at a desk job (for the sake of his new and growing family) be rescinded and that he gets placed with his former squadron again.

After quickly refreshing our minds of terrorist attacks that came in the years before September 11, the movie picks up on that morning, with Capt. Mitch Nelson (Chris Hemsworth) learning about the attacks on the World Trade Center from the TV as he spends time with his wife, Jean (Elsa Pataky, "The Fate of the Furious"), and their young daughter.

Michael Shannon. David James/Warner Bros. So Nelson and his comrades, fighting alongside anti-Taliban forces, adopt an old-school approach to getting around.

"I know", Mitch responds.

Dostum and Nelson form a tenuous bond that is tested throughout the film, as they trade the shield of modern technology for horses and mules to cross the treacherous landscape (New Mexico plays Afghanistan here).

Operating from a remote base in neighboring Uzbekistan, the men reach the mountains amid growing dread since they're badly outnumbered, save for the promised help of air troops as required.

  • Salvatore Jensen