Friday, April 13, 2018

'12 Strong' Tells the Incredible Story of ODA 595

12 Strong is a war drama film based on Doug Stanton’s Horse Soldiers, the non-fiction book that tells the story of Operation Delta Attachment (ODA) 595, the first troops the United States deployed to Afghanistan immediately after the 9/11 attacks.  Composed of twelve U.S. Special Forces soldiers (hence, the “12” in the movie title; Chris Hemsworth, Michael Shannon, Michael Peña, and Trevante Rhodes portrayed four of them), ODA 595 is secretly tasked to fight alongside General Abdul Rashid Dostum (Navid Negahban), a local warlord warring with the Taliban – the common enemy.  Despite the volatility of their uneasy alliance and being vastly outnumbered, they proceed to adapt in the rough, unfamiliar environment – which includes requiring them to travel and fight on horses – and execute what has been considered “one of the US military’s most stunning achievements.”

This movie is conventional – even maybe hackneyed – with its delivery.  Nevertheless, it’s pretty solid.  It’s well-directed, well-shot and well-acted.  And while the narrative doesn’t have much sophistication, it still succeeds in being generally absorbing.  Most importantly, the action is absolutely fantastic, and the set pieces are thrilling and visceral.
Aside from being enjoyable, it’s also informative.  It’s expected that it would have some fictional elements and creative liberties.   It does have those, of course.  But, after some reading on the real-life story, I was surprised with how much of the incredible details in the movie are true.  12 Strong is essentially an unglorified retelling, in my opinion.

In the end, 12 Strong is the kind of movie that can be accused of being a manipulative, propagandistic puff piece for the American war machine.  Well, validating that notion is out of my reach.  But, even so, this is an objective fact: the US military is by far the most advanced and most active in the world, which results to a consistent stream of fascinating cinematic material.

Regardless, 12 Strong is legitimately entertaining.

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