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12 Strong (dir. Fuglsig)

Image: Chris Hemsworth’s character deals with an Afghan warlord. © Photograph by David James. Property of HS Film LLC [Source: IMDB]

 ★★☆☆☆

In the wake of 9/11, the United States military is rattled by the catastrophic event in a jingoistic war film following the “based on true events” story of 12 soldiers that made it their mission to work with an Afghan warlord to fight the Taliban on their home soil.

Director: Nicolai Fuglsig. Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Michael Shannon, Michael Pena [15]

Despite the based on the declassified true events nature of the film, suggesting a more grounded and character-based story. 12 Strong finds itself trying to be two different types of war film. Director Nicolai Fuglsig seems to be unsure of the tone of the story he is telling, one-part brutal, harsh realities of war – another part that might as well have explosions in red, white and blue. The consequence of this takes its toll on the characters most of all, the film tries its best to implement character development as well as moments to produce audience empathy, a darker message about people in war or a connection but sadly that is never realized. Stooping into tried and overdone clichés, this is certainly the low point of the film. It takes away from this potential for a middle act that is purely explosions and Chris Hemsworth brooding, following into a final act of more explosions and forced empathetic situations that borderline on parody.

Even viewing 12 Strong on the flip side of being a patriotic fueled action flick still leaves much to be desired. The action is done well for the most part and is enjoyable to see something a bit different (being they fight on horseback in the desert). I found that in its build up or more reserved scenes the action was far tenser and brutal. Some commendation has to be given for the lack of shaky cam in hyperintensity scenes as well as not shying away from the gore, but again this is walking in between being two different kinds of war film. Where 12 Strong’s action-fueled flashes lack, is the score or innovative new ideas to make the audience feel the intensity of the situation, there is no heroic fist in the air, worthy moments here.

So, when the dust has settled from the firefights, 12 Strong’s real problem is exposed, its lazy writing and lack of ambition with its story. Familiar dialogue and lack of deeper character development squander the potential for this otherwise entertaining film that doesn’t quite display any edge of your seat action but can be a decent time as long as you don’t expect too much from it.

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