12 Strong Delivers a Rapid Convoy of Truth

The true story of highly skilled men dropped behind enemy lines after 9/11


Calling poster for movie

Isabel Johnson, Broadcast Editor

Gun fire, carnage, horses screaming as they are put down in the dirt by a stray bullet. The rapid pop, pop, pop of a machine gun. The whomping sound of air being stolen after a missile is fired. The war cries of men that will give you chills, no matter the language its said in.

The movie 12 Strong is based on the true mission of Task Force Dagger. The men, otherwise known as the Horse Soldiers, were deemed as the trial run. They were the first men, boots on ground in enemy territory in the valley of Mazar-i-Sharif. This was one month after 9/11.

Task Force Dagger: team ODA 595 would drop down to take back the city of Mazar-i-Sharif and team up with an Afghan Warlord, Abdul Rashid Dostum (Navid Negahban). Dostum is a real-life Warlord, who later became the vice president of Afghanistan. He and Nutsch (real-life solider on the task force) are said to still be friends to this day. The problem with teaming up with the Northern territories was even though all the warlords hated the Taliban for obvious reasons, they also hated each other. It was mainly due to ownership of land.

Mitch Nelson (Chris Hemsworth), inspired by Mark Nutsch, is the captain of Operational Detachment Alpha 595 (ODA 595 as its referred to in the movie). It comes to light at the very beginning that Nelson had never actually been to combat. He had never killed someone in action, this became crucial in further scenes. He earns the respect of Colonel John Mulholland (William Fichtner), by going into the battle with a different mindset. He pushes the limit by promising both his superiors that he would bring everyone one of his 11 comrades home. Alive.

The motion picture’s gritty action and no-holds-barred of showing flying extremities and blood splashed background vehicles, does good on its word to show how the mission was executed. Filming in New Mexico gave the Afghanistan desert a home away from home.

The tattered, blood stained, handmade clothing on the Afghan people, gave an insight to the lifestyle lived during war. A public execution for a teacher who encouraged young girls to learn how to read and spell in a miniscule village fuels a rage about the unfair educational treatment in boys and girls. This is the first scene in Afghanistan that you get to see. This seamlessly transitioned into rooting for Nelson against the fictional Taliban leader Mullah Razzan (Numan Acar).

The movie has gotten mixed reviews, some claiming that the movie is a cut and copy of all other war movies. But 12 Strong brings to the screen what one doesn’t see that often among other war films – the ability to balance the robust, complex, multi-level gunfights and airstrikes, with what seems to be realistic humor pockets, where the men make fun of each other, or have the ability to show conflicting emotions.

One scene that stands to be reckoned with, is when Nelson, for the first time, kills another human being. His emotions don’t come into play until after everyone in his team is safe. The action isn’t broken up by him freaking out, or screaming some warrior cry. Instead there is a small place holder that has significant meaning.

When first meeting with the 12, warlord Dostum, doesn’t accept Nelson as leader, he points out that it’s because Nelson doesn’t have killer eyes. He points to the rest of the men and says that they all have killer eyes, which means Nelson can’t be leader. But after Nelson’s first kill, Dostum adds a quick side note, that he now has “killer eyes”.

The only down sides found in the movie were the two moments of film in which the men looked like a collection of CGI. The skin, though covered in dust and blood, looked too smooth, like a freshly installed marble countertop. The other moment, was two of the twelve waving to Dostum, looked like little video game characters in a dirt pile.

Cinematography was the absolute bomb; the New Mexico desert gave the perfect backdrop to the carnage and bombs and mountains that are all shown in flash scenes. This is a movie with a layered cast, heart, action and abrasive, yet noteworthy musical composition. While there have been mixed reviews, it’s best to trust your own eyes, and see the film for yourself.