12 Strong

12Strong
Is that the across clue or the down?

M any an excursion went down in the wake of 9/11, some legal, some not, and some we are just hearing about now. Among the missing accounts are several -off the books- military responses. I’m not exactly sure why many of these accounts were undisclosed; the United States desperately needed a national pick-me-up towards the end of 2001. Did you not want us to know we consider the Taliban an enemy? Is that a national secret? Did you not want Afghanistan to know we were there? Yeah, cuz that might have caused an international situation. Wouldn’t want that.

In October of 2001, just weeks after the World Trade Center towers were felled, the United States sent exactly twelve (12!) men -the very noblest men the green berets had to offer, btw- into Afghanistan to retake Taliban territory. At the time, of course, it was very important to show our enemies that our dicks are bigger than theirs, which seems to be a significant part of what went on here.

The combat untested Captain Mitch Nelson (Chris Hemsworth) won the honor of leading his dozen, for his ability to tell Rob Riggle and William Fichtner -trust me, it’s funny to see either of these guys as a military heavy- what he saw in their figurative Rorschach test. Cap’t. Nelson saw in the ink blots the version of Afghanistan that requires action ASAP, which his superiors appreciated. Then he saw a fluffy bunny.

I would be remiss in not pointing this out: something is very, very wrong with the timeline of this tale. To the public, it took the United States a tremendous amount of time -months, even- to identify the correct 9/11 villains, and then we went after the wrong people anyway. While the target enemy in 12 Strong is Taliban, who are hardly innocent but not responsible for 9/11 -so that’s a bit of bullshit right there- the movie correctly identifies targets Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda as responsible 9/11 agents. So, um, President W, Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney …? Now, it looks like you not only sold the wrong war to the American public, you took your sweet time in doing it. If we didn’t all feel like suckers before, how did we get to invading Iraq in 2003 when we knew damn well who attacked us in October of 2001?

As for 12 Strong, the plan was for Mitchy the kid along with Michaels Shannon and Peña and a handful of other macho soldiers to hook up with local warlord General Dostum (Navid Negahban) –Ah, yes, a summit of the butch and the butcher— then the combined forces attack a key Taliban-held trading route in Northern Afghanistan. In the “what’s wrong with this picture” segment, we learn the attack has to take place on horseback as the mountain passes are impenetrable otherwise. Captain Nelson was the lone U.S. soldier among the twelve with equine experience. And the Taliban force? Over a thousand men. Well, this should be fun, huh?

Anyway, you know going in this is a propaganda tale. Selling the public on “the first responders to 9/11” rather than “here’s when we kicked some Taliban ass because it pretty much needed kicking” is Benghazi-ish in its knee-jerk need to appeal to a certain audience. That said, this isn’t a bad film. It’s a little slow in set-up, and the first excursions are little more than guys on a hill dropping bombs on guys in the dale, but war fans will eventually enjoy the strategy and valor, and American patriots will eat up the nobility of war aspects.

I can’t say I’d recommend 12 Strong to everybody. And it’s not just the propaganda or war part. There’s a ton of hindsight in this film delivered as present-day wisdom (not hindsight wisdom). We even get a speech out of the thankful General Dostum towards the end along the lines of, “Today, you are our friends. If you leave, you are cowards, but if you stay, you will become our enemy. Yet today, friends.” Really, pal, you gonna pull that one out at the end of successful battle? You seem to have omitted the next scene which is five years later in a hostile Kabul where the American James Bond needs intel and just “Happens to know a guy in the Northwest. [They] fought alongside one another against the Taliban.”

For what this tale is and who it’s meant to appeal to, 12 Strong is a hit. For fans of movies period, it’s going to be a mixed bag; you will likely take from 12 Strong exactly what you brought to the theater with you.

♪I ride along the crested view
Whoever thought I’d be a horseman too
Be a horseman too

The enemy is down below
Today those jerks are gonna get a show
Jerks will get a show

Tal-i-ban
We’re from the U.S.A.
Tal-i-ban
I hear you like to pray
That time has come today♫

Rated R, 130 Minutes
Director: Nicolai Fuglsig
Writer: Ted Tally and Peter Craig
Genre: Our valiant, rewritten history
Type of being most likely to enjoy this film: American soldiers
Type of being least likely to enjoy this film: The Taliban

♪ Parody Inspired by “I Ran”

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