Chris Hemsworth takes on the Taliban in solid war film '12 Strong'

Carla Harmon
January 19, 2018

The image is rousingly iconic, if a little incongruous.

On a bright autumn morning, Mitch Nelson (Chris Hemsworth) is relaxing with his wife and daughter when he happens to glance at the television screen and witnesses something so horrific that it's as if time has stopped: a plane flying straight into the World Trade Center. Their mission, during which they operated under the code name Task Force Dagger, was to hook up with a Northern Alliance warlord (Navid Negahban) and battle their way to the Taliban stronghold of Mazar-i-Sharif, calling in airstrikes until the Taliban (and the Al Qaeda forces they harbored) could be wiped off the map.

Dostum, a real-life fighter and survivor of many conflicts and regimes who would one day be elected vice president of Afghanistan, emerges nearly by default as the movie's most compelling character - a Mephistophelian figure whom Negahban embodies with a wry mix of pragmatism and philosophizing. "The collaboration of the American soldiers with the local Afghan people, that was another big reason for me".

12 Strong movie review: 12 Strong strikes an unapologetic gung-ho note, going about its job with workman-like efficiency. Horses and mules were the only way for the allies to access the commanding heights.

Co-starring Michael Shannon and Trevante Rhodes, 12 Strong opens nationwide January 19.

In the last 16-plus years, there have been any number of movies tackling the American military response to 9/11. Being together and how much he gets involved with them. We relied on each other. Like maneuvering along high, narrow ledges at the film's remote New Mexico locations while wearing 40-pound backpacks and brandishing powerful M4 assault rifles. But I am very proud of Elsa's work in the film. Everyone was uncertain, off-guard and learning as they go.

"We'll be in this fight, boys, you mark my words", Nelson says, and the script, written by Ted Tally and Peter Craig with the unerring logic of hindsight, proves him right. "It was a lot of fun!"

The members of ODA 595 all had to ride horses because of the inhospitable terrain and distance they needed to cover. Navigating winding mountain paths and other unfriendly patches of real estate, Nelson and Dostum's combined forces are all on horseback with many brandishing only rifles which occasionally lends the production the rustic look and feel of a classic period Western. Now they're playing a couple in "12 Strong".

Chris Hemsworth is among the first boots - and hooves - on the ground in Afghanistan after 9/11. All came back alive.

Fuglsig brings an eye for systems and detail to the film, but this is a Jerry Bruckheimer production after all, and he never skimps on the bombastic pyrotechnics. "They were meeting up with a warlord who they knew nothing about. So any moment, on any circumstance, she actually just writes a song, so we love her and having her around is fun", Pataky explained. Chris Hemsworth's wife is starring alongside her hubby in the new movie - and her role isn't much of a stretch.

The Australian Hemsworth may not be, literally speaking, an American. "That responsibility ... on one hand, there's a pressure, but it's also a huge advantage".

Based on Doug Stanton's Horse Soldiers, the war movie is directed by former photojournalist Nicolai Fuglsig, a filmmaker whose career also includes covering the Kosovo War.

"You will be cowards if you leave, enemies if you stay", he says.

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