12 STRONG showed up in 2018, the 18th year that US troops marked combat duty in Afghanistan, a way-late-in-the-Great-game sop to a never-ending fiasco, trying to cinema- salvage something positive from the mire of lies. Directed by Nicolai Fuglsig, the script by Ted Tally and Peter Craig is based off Doug Stanton’s non-fiction 576-page bestseller from 2007, “Horse Soldiers: The Extraordinary Story of a Band of U.S. soldiers Who Rode to Victory in Afghanistan”.
Sent into Afghanistan a month after 9-11 as one of the first combat teams on the ground, a Green Beret Special Forces squad works to align with various suspicious, often antagonistic ethnic groups to fight the Taliban. They work miracles against overwhelming odds, including conducting an insanely daring cavalry charge against rocket and tank fire. It helps to have B-52s come in and blast the Taliban and parts of mountains sky high.
True story notwithstanding, and taking nothing away from the heroism of the soldiers, the movie amounts to more jingoistic nonsense trying to make a ripped-off public feel better about being screwed by lying politicians on a colossal scale. Topping the roll call of 18 different producers was reliable blower-up-all-things-within-reach Jerry Bruckheimer. Mouth-breathing Fox zombies can see treason in a reason, but it is possible for a person who cares about their country (always have), has sympathy for those put in harm’s way (of course), and feels not a jot of guilt about scraping the Taliban and such-ever ilk off the face of the Earth (knock ’em down with extreme prejudice) to at the same time also resent the hell out of having your chain yanked to guilt-jump at attention for war mongers, hypocrites and morons who can’t find Texas on a map yet are eager to go drop million-dollar bombs every time someone sneezes 10,000 miles away—usually in a place that has some connection to oil. Just how many times do you need to touch a hot stove?
On a more mundane reality note: watch the furious, video-game-like action scenes here and gape in awe over weapons (ours) that never seem to need reloading and the ability for hundreds of enemy machine-gun rounds to miss someone galloping at them on a horse.
Overlong at 130 minutes, employing New Mexico to sub for Afghanistan; locations include White Sands National Monument, Socorro and mine sites near Orogrande. With Chris Hemsworth (“Thor goes to War”), Michael Shannon (an offbeat role for this offbeat actor), Michael Peña (wiseacre relief), Navid Negahban (good as General Dostum, who went on to become the country’s Vice-President), Trevante Rhodes, William Fichtner, Geoff Stults, Thad Luckinbill, Rob Riggle (who actually served over there).
Picture ranked 64th among the box-office scores for 2018, with $67,416,000 gross against a cost of $35,000,000. Another $10,648,000 came in through disc sales. The beat goes on…