12 Strong

The good news about 12 Strong is that it rises above the expected absurdity comprising most January film releases.

12 Strong12 Strong, directed by Nicolai Fuglsig, fulfilled most of my limited expectations. To begin with, I wanted to see it because the cast included talented actors like Chris Hemsworth, Michael Shannon and Michael Peña. They succeeded in helping the film rise above a plot that involved little more than one constant gun battle.

Based on a true story, the film centers on a Special Forces team sent to Afghanistan shortly following the tragic events of 9/11. Their goal was to convince a reluctant group of Afghanistani allies to join them in their attempts to destroy a Taliban stronghold.

Fortunately, Mr. Hemsworth, playing Captain Mitch Nelson, leads the small American team of 12 soldiers. Linking up with local forces, they are required to ride horses in rugged mountain terrain to try to achieve their goal. In the process, you don’t really need to pay attention to the script as gunfire largely drowns it out at every turn.

The thing that I find most annoying about films like 12 Strong and the recent movies directed by Clint Eastwood is that the only female characters are limited to playing wives and girlfriends back home who are largely left in tears. It’s a man’s world for Producer Jerry Bruckheimer, and women are supposed to stay home and fulfill their principal role in society, which is to cook and raise children.

And if you think I am wrong about Mr. Eastwood, think of his recent film Sully. Our hero pilot’s wife (Laura Linney) appeared on screen in a role as described above, and the film lost its power as a result.

Nonetheless, it is ironic that the most notable performance in 12 Strong came from David Negahban, playing the Afghan General Dostum. He was both committed and cynical, and his words prophetically described the fate of the United States in this war. As Captain Nelson announced that he and his 11 men would soon be returning to the States after a three-week stay in Afghanistan, the General said, “If you Americans leave, we will view you as cowards. If you stay, you will become the enemy.”

Sixteen years later Americans are still killing and dying in Afghanistan,