Not everyone knows the story of the first U.S. combat forces in Afghanistan after 9/11. As related in the 2009 book “Horse Soldiers,” a small team of 12 Green Berets — known as Task Force Dagger — achieved a startling victory. Assisted on the ground by ragtag fighters loyal to an Afghan warlord and, from the sky by U.S. bombers, the men — often on horseback — helped liberate a stronghold of the Taliban and al-Qaida, Mazar-e Sharif, within a matter of weeks.
Their return to the United States was greeted with little fanfare.
While it’s gratifying — and occasionally gripping — to see that story told in “12 Strong,” the Jerry Bruckheimer-produced film contains few genuine surprises, at least from a cinematic standpoint. Despite solid performances by the ensemble cast, led by Chris Hemsworth as cocksure Capt. Mitch Nelson and Michael Shannon as his grumpy, retirement-ready second-in-command, Chief Warrant Officer Hal Spencer, the fictionalized film relies heavily on cliché, including the kind of swaggering banter one might expect from a video game.
“That’s what I call a target-rich environment,” cracks one member of Nelson’s team, when they are informed that their tiny squad is up against more than 50,000 Taliban fighters.
The enemy is embodied by an almost cartoonish, black-clad Taliban mullah, who, when he’s not executing a weeping schoolteacher for educating girls or firing a barrage of RPGs at Nelson and his men, is peering through the red-tinted lenses of binoculars that suggest a satanic malevolence.
Make no mistake: “12 Strong” is a Western, set in the mountains of Afghanistan. It isn’t just the horses or the bleakly beautiful terrain (which director Nicolai Fuglsig uses to great advantage). Despite these and other staples of the genre, the film’s macho dialogue — inflected with an gallows humor that renders the real-world gravity of the
Source:: The Mercury News