12 Strong is about a U.S. Special Forces team, lead by Chris' character Mitch Nelson, chosen to be the first U.S. troops sent into Afghanistan for an extremely risky mission. They worked in harsh conditions alongside a local warlord and his men, an uneasy alliance at best, and, even with all the technology and money of the US military, executed the successful mission largely on horseback. The film tells the declassified true story of heroism the Horse Soldiers lived during the real events that unfolded a world away in the aftermath of 9/11. Hemsworth, stalwart as always, plays Captain Mitch Nelson, who leads a group of men-among them Shannon's Hal Spencer and Peña's Sam Diller-to one of the world's most unforgiving landscapes to fight an enemy about whom they know very little. They can veer from too sentimental to too macho and bloviating depending on who's in front of and behind the camera.
"12 Strong" stars Chris Hemsworth, Michael Shannon and William Fichtner.
The real-life soldiers and the Hollywood stars who portrayed them reunited at the film's world premiere in NY on Tuesday. In addition to Negahban's calm, measured performance, we see a character with a rich backstory, someone who has been embroiled in conflict for pretty much his entire life, suffered personal losses, and understands the difference between a soldier and a warrior.
It's when the men get to the Middle East that the film becomes truly gripping, thanks to an ominous score, a hair-raising helicopter ride that rivals moments in Kathryn Bigelow's "Zero Dark Thirty", and the inherent tension of a mission that, as Nelson puts it, has no playbook. The true story of the "horse soldiers" is remarkable, but the movie about them is sadly forgettable.
"Having the experts teach us about the Special Forces and this particular mission was invaluable", Hemsworth adds.
But as the War in Afghanistan drags into its 16th year with no end in sight or even parameters for victory, 12 Strong comes off blissfully unaware of how its heroic victories now seem like pyrrhic ones.