Blu-ray Review: 12 Strong

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New to Blu-ray from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment is the incredible true story 12 Strong, starring Chris Hemsworth, Michael Shannon, Michael Peña, Navid Negahban, and in a rare dramatic turn former SNL funnyman Rob Riggle. Based on Doug Stanton's New York Times bestseller Horse Soldiers, this war epic depicts the very first U.S. Special Forces operations in Afghanistan following the attacks of 9/11.

It's a story of true bravery and honor, with U.S. Army Captain Mitch Nelson (Hemsworth) commanding a team that includes assistant team leader Chief Warrant Officer 5 Hal Spencer—some real-life names have been changed for the purposes of this adaptation—heading into the rugged mountainous Afghan terrain. Under orders from 5th Special Forces Group Commander Colonel John Mulholland (William Fichtner), Captain Nelson and his men must work with Afghanistan Northern Alliance leader General Abdul Rashid Dostum (Negahban) to make the region unsafe for Taliban operations to continue. 
12Strong_feat.jpg And due to the treacherous territory, Operational Detachment Alpha (ODA) 595 must execute all combat operations on horseback. Throughout tense battle sequences, Captain Nelson and General Dostum earn each other's respect as both men acquire a deeper understanding of their respective forces' stake in the fight. Standing in for Afghanistan are convincingly rough-looking locations in New Mexico. Hemsworth, Shannon, and especially Navid Negahban all contribute intense performances.

Here's the problem... And I tread lightly here because I do not wish to diminish the monumental accomplishments of the U.S. military. This is an important chapter in the history of the War on Terror and 12 Strong is highly recommended for its commendable efforts to recognize that. While rookie director Nicolai Fuglsig does serviceable work, the film is overlong at two hours and ten minutes. The visual presentation is technically strong, but for whatever reasons Fuglsig has difficulty bringing a sense of immediacy to the proceedings. In depicting an isolated series of operations, co-screenwriters Ted Tally and Peter Craig perhaps could've better contextualized the events (and sharpened the characterizations of the main participants).

12Strong_group.jpgWhile Warner Bros. Blu-ray edition of 12 Strong isn't packed with special features, there are two very worthwhile featurettes included. "12 Strong: The Making of an Impossible Mission" is a 22-minute piece in which we meet the real-life inspirations behind some of the film's lead characters and hear their reflections on both their experiences and the film itself. Producer Jerry Bruckheimer weighs in as well. "Monumental Effort: Building America's Response Monument" is a ten-minute piece focused on the sculpting of the real-life monument that stands to honor the work done by ODA 595.

12 Strong is an okay movie (albeit with flashes of inspired visuals and strong acting) about an extraordinary series of efforts that initiated the U.S. military response to 9/11. Tighter storytelling might've improved it, but it is nonetheless well worth investing a couple hours to see it.

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Chaz Lipp writes for The Morton Report.

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