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Review

12 Strong

By Dan Lybarger Special to the Demicrat-Gazette

This article was published January 19, 2018 at 1:41 a.m.

capt-mitch-nelson-chris-hemsworth-is-chosen-to-be-with-the-first-us-troops-sent-into-afghanistan-to-hunt-down-taliban-operatives-in-the-aftermath-of-the-sept-11-2001-terrorist-attacks-in-12-strong

Capt. Mitch Nelson (Chris Hemsworth), is chosen to be with the first U.S. troops sent into Afghanistan to hunt down Taliban operatives in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in 12 Strong.

12 Strong

77 Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Michael Shannon, Elsa Pataky, William Fichtner, Taylor Sheridan, Michael Pena, Austin Stowell, Geoff Stults, Rob Riggle, Yasmine Aker, Trevante Rhodes, Jack Kesy, Navid Negahban, Ben O’Toole, Marie Wagenman

Director: Nicolai Fuglsig

Rating: R, for war violence and language throughout

Running time: 2 hours, 10 minutes

While director Nicolai Fuglsig is a relative newcomer, his war drama 12 Strong bears the fingerprints of producer Jerry Bruckheimer, who on good days gave us Crimson Tide and Black Hawk Down, but more often has stuck audiences with regrettable fare like Pearl Harbor.

The mission that inspired the movie is certainly worthy of the big screen. The American special forces squad depicted in 12 Strong pulled off a logistical miracle. Unfortunately the film only fitfully creates the tension while hinting at the difficulties involved.

In the aftermath of 9/11, Capt. Mitch Nelson (Chris Hemsworth) and a team of 11 other soldiers sneak into Afghanistan in the hopes of taking over the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif. If Nelson and his team can liberate the city from the Taliban and al Qaida, the rest of the country could soon follow.

Thanks to its rugged terrain, fearsome weather and resolute local population, the country has been called the "Graveyard of Empires" because countries like the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union have regretted trying to conquer it. With a typically brutal winter coming, Nelson's team has only 21 days before taking the city becomes impossible.

Nelson has no combat experience, but his superior officer (William Fichtner) hands him the assignment because he's the only leader who understands how challenging the mission is. While Uncle Sam has more firepower than any country in the history of the world, little of it is available in Central Asia. Oh, and because of the terrain and the local forces that will be joining them, the Americans will be riding horses, while the Taliban have tanks.

Nelson teams up with a warlord named Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum (Iranian-born Navid Negahban), whose loyalty seems limited to his own fiefdom. Thanks to Negahban's nuanced portrayal, Dostum is easily the most intriguing character in the whole film.

Dostum is understandably wary of his new allies and seems more intent on subduing other members of the shaky Northern Alliance than in defeating the Taliban. Having fought the Soviets, it's easy for him to see any outsider as someone who will be gone after the fighting stops.

But the Americans in 12 Strong are thinly realized, and it's hard to get emotionally involved in their fate even if they're in the most dangerous situation imaginable.

Screenwriters Ted Tally (The Silence of the Lambs) and Peter Craig shoehorn in cliches from World War II movies and episodes of MAS*H, and the tropes fit awkwardly. There are little kids playing tagalong with the Yankee troops, and "we fight them here" platitudes that seem a little out of place in this conflict.

MovieStyle on 01/19/2018

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