Wednesday, 31 January 2018

#12 TWELVE STRONG


Starring Chris Hemsworth, Michael Shannon, Michael Pena, Navid Negahban, Trevante Rhodes, Geoff Stults, William Fichtner, Rob Riggle, Elsa Pataky and Thad Luckinbill. Written by Ted Tally and Peter Craig. Directed by Nicolai Fuglsig. Running time 129 minutes long. Budget $35 million. Certificate 15.

The film follows the activities of the twelve man Task Force Dagger squad as they are dropped into Afghanistan to help rebel general Abdul Rashid Dostum of the Northern Alliance take out three Taliban strongholds and thereby destabilise the terrorist state’s stranglehold on the country following the September 11 attacks.

The strike force are lead by Captain Mitch Nelson (Chris Hemsworth), out on his first actual combat mission. He non-arrogantly declares that, not only will he bring his boys back alive, but he’ll do it in three weeks rather than the 2 years the army specialists say the mission will take. What follows is a relentless barrage of bullets, bombs, explosions and good old fashioned, undulated American patriotism as the insanely charismatic Hemsworth and his motley crew of warriors lead by the ever watchable and likeable Michael Shnnon, Michael Pena kill a seemingly never ending army of swarthy, turban headed Islamic terrorists in an almost non-stop orgy of violence.

Actually, that’s not strictly true, there are many moments when the action stops long enough for Hewsworth or Shannon or who ever to emote, stare off into the distance or make rye comments about their lives, or families left behind. But apart from that, it’s pretty much a bullet ballet of balletic brutality. Because of the terrain of Afghanistan, Nelson’s men are forced to ride horses and become legends in their own right, helping wise old war general Dostum take back his country and exact revenge on the leader of the Taliban for the slaughter of his family. Luckily the film shows us how evil the villain is by not only dressing him all in black, but giving him a true hawk-like nose but having him butcher a young mother in front of her three daughters because she taught them to read and do mathematics.

The action follows a similar path, Hemsworth and co rock up to a Taliban strong hold. Hemsy sneaks up to or shots his way close to the target so he can give the circling B52 bomber precise co-ordinates for a bomb run then runs back to his chums and wait to pick off the survivors. And as tactics go it’s pretty goddam effective, it’s amazing how little protection ordinary clothing offers when pounded by 1000 Ilbs of high explosive.

And that’s about that really. As films go, it’s rather long, but looks pretty, although you could easily shave 30 minutes off it and not effect it too much. It’s very violent (naturally!) and it doesn’t really offer us any insights into the minds or motives of the 12 soldiers other than they’re rightfully pissed at the 9/11 attacks. And here’s where the problems lie, because it is based on a real campaign and features real people, even if played by actors, you’re left unable to enjoy it for any mindless reasons because real people died, it somewhat taints the movie, particularly if you’d gone in wanting some mindless action.

The film ends with a caption and photo of the real squad and a quick catch up on what some of them are up to now and that’s it.

By no means a bad film, just one that feels extremely on message and seemingly designed by ‘Hollywood’ as a big thank you to the US military for the loan of so much of its equipment in so many big budget movies of recent years. 6/10

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