Sept. 11, 2001. It is a day etched into the minds of everyone in the United States of America regardless of who you are or what you do. On Sept. 11, a very obvious strike was made against America, and in the film 12 Strong, we see America’s first strike back against those who orchestrated the events of that fateful day.
Capt. Mitch Nelson (Chris Hemsworth) had a team of men who looked up to him. But it was time for Nelson to establish life with his family, so he chose to take a desk position. When he learns of the attack on the twin towers, he and his team want to go to battle to defend the country using their Special Forces training to the fullest extent. Nelson’s right hand, Hal Spencer (Michael Shannon), sticks up for him and pleads to Lt. Col. Bowers (Rob Riggle), who knows the only solution that will appease all involved is to grant Nelson’s request and send him and his team to Afghanistan.
It is there, in a country whose people have survived countless attacks, that the Taliban are thought to be holed up. But getting there is only half the battle. Once in the country, Nelson has to convince Col. Mulholland (William Fichtner) to let his team be the first ones in battle.
With the help of one of the warlords in the area, Gen. Dostum (Navid Negahban), Nelson and his men will attempt to strike the first blow for America. The fight will feature moments no soldier could prepare for and dangerous foes at every turn, but Nelson is up for the challenge and wants two outcomes: to win the battle and bring everyone back alive. Can this captain with no battlefield experience lead his team to accomplish his mission?
I really like the story filtering through this film. The idea of the first men who set foot on foreign soil to attack the enemy is exhilarating and motivating. The soldiers are not bloodthirsty, but yet they are … if that makes sense. Because the film wastes little time getting to the battle sequences, we get a minimal look at the backstory of the soldiers, an aspect of the story that seemed to be brimming with possibilities.
Instead of looking at Nelson’s wife Jean (Elsa Pataky) and their relationship, we only know of a promise he made. Instead of looking at Hal’s wife Marsha (Allison King) and his obviously tenuous relationship with his family, we just head to the action. Even when Sgt. Sam Diller’s (Michael Peña) wife Lisa (Lauren Myers) redirects his focus to his family, she hides her own anxiety about his imminent departure. Each of these relationships could make for a different movie that would be quite interesting to see, but this is a film that exists to take us to a far-off land and engulf us in the war and the action that entails. So off we go.
We do get a little build of the relationships between soldiers, more of the relationship between the leaders, but this is mainly a story about the battle that was fought and the men who fought it. Kudos to the men — they deserve all the praise in the world for what they did and the sacrifices they made, but the film seems a bit lacking in sharing the true depth of the story.
This surface-level look at the battle that took place far from the television cameras is engaging and produces the intended visceral reaction. 12 Strong delivers on the action, but there is so much more to the story.
12 Strong is available On Demand beginning May 1. Check your cable system for availability.