The hardest part about watching a movie based on or inspired by true events is the harsh reality of it. A part of me wants to shake my head, close my eyes and say, “That’s not real. It’s just a movie.”
But with a film like “12 Strong,” it isn’t just a movie.
Directed by Nicolai Fuglsig and written by Ted Tally and Peter Craig, “12 Strong” is based on the novel “Horse Soldiers: The Extraordinary Story of a Band of U.S. Soldiers Who Rode to Victory in Afghanistan,” written by Doug Stanton.
The movie’s plot is summed up in the title of the inspiring book. Following the events of 9/11, a U.S. Special Forces team is deployed to Afghanistan to join forces with Northern Alliance Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum (Navid Negahban) in the fight against the Taliban government.
Led by Capt. Mitch Nelson (Chris Hemsworth), the U.S. soldiers unite with Dostum’s men, traveling on horses and calling in air raids in cities throughout the country to liberate the people and avenge the attacks back home.
As I sat in the theater, I did not move throughout the entire film. I was curled in a ball, watching every second of the violence that ensued as our men fought for freedom.
When the first bomb dropped on members of the Taliban, I winced.
Elsewhere in the audience, people cheered.
This was not a film to sensationalize war. It did not aim to merely show who our enemies were or to invoke violence against them.
The first characters we meet are Nelson, his wife and his daughter as they watch the twin towers falling on the morning news.
We learn that Nelson had asked for a reassigned position to allow him time with his family. But after these acts of terrorism, he and his team members are some of the first to request deployment to fight back.
“12 Strong” showed the humanity that persists even in the war zone. Nelson and Dostum bonded over the lives lost during the fight, and Nelson’s team member Sgt. 1st Class Ben Milo (Trevante Rhodes) protects the life of a young boy following Dostum and his men.
With every gunshot, bomb dropped or body falling, I felt a growing pain in my chest. I know it was all done with “movie magic,” but that doesn’t make it any easier to see someone get shot square in the forehead as children watch.
What kept me watching was the strength that Hemsworth exhibited in his portrayal of Nelson. He was a fearless leader. Hemsworth played the part with an appropriate amount of sensitivity, strategy and perseverance necessary for that situation.
The other members of the team, particularly Sgt. 1st Class Sam Diller (Michael Peña), provided comedic moments in between all of the action.
But even a laugh couldn’t distract from the gravity of the situation. Plenty of gunshots and explosions were littered throughout to excite any viewer, and there was hardly a lull until the film’s end.
There is pride and pain in serving our country, and “12 Strong” did a good job at showing the reality of war and what it means to truly fight for freedom.
“12 Strong” is in theaters now.