12 Strong — 4 Gavels 49% Rotten Tomatoes

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Image result for 12 Strong

Unabashedly patriotic, this is the way Hollywood should make movies.   You get a lot of bang for your buck and you feel good when you walk out of the theater.  Certainly, we need movies that show warts now and then, but it is a shame that critics seem only to like the negative ones.  That this movie was produced by Jerry Bruckheimer and it deals with Afghanistan are likely two strikes against it for the critics.  Granted, this is not a great script, but it is a great story.  It is a shame that it has taken this long for recognition to be given.  These were 12 brave men.

Five weeks after the 9/11 attack, the military interviewed six different teams to enter Afghanistan and attack the Al-Qaeda and their protectors, the Taliban.  Despite having no combat experience, Captain Nelson is selected to hook up with one of the three Northern Alliance factions fighting the Taliban.  It is noteworthy that those three factions did not play well together.   General Dostum had been fighting foreign enemies for nearly 40 years, had a few hundred men, and hated the Taliban.  But to take Mazar-i-Sharif, they would encounter thousands of heavily armed, heavily entrenched enemy.  And, General Dostum had no real reason to trust the Americans although he did want their air power.  With winter setting in, this small group had three weeks to do what some thought would take two years to accomplish.

Chris Hemsworth is Capt. Nelson and a Dwayne Johnson clone.  I hope his non-Thor movies start making money.  Michael Shannon is Chief Warrant Officer Spencer, usually a bad guy, and nice to see in a positive role.  Michael Pena is Sgt. Diller and always fun to watch.  Navid Negahban is Gen. Dostum and does a nice job portraying Afghan concerns about the Americans as well as the Taliban.  It would be hard to find a more menacing Taliban leader than Said Taghmaoui.

At times this is a gritty war film, as it should be.  The Taliban, executing a female teacher for teaching girls under age 8, is a stark reminder of the evil in this world.   The logistics of trying to successfully attack the Taliban from the air are fascinating; the plan of attack using horses against tanks was brilliant even recognizing that few other options were available.  We must remember that Al Qaeda still refers to this as their greatest defeat.  We are indebted to these soldiers who had no reasonable expectation of survival yet accomplished the impossible.  Incredible, absolutely incredible.   Forget Phantom Thread, this is the film to see.