Tag Archives: Michael Pena

Movie review: More emotion, less action needed in ’12 Strong’

VIDEO: See Tim’s review of “12 Strong” with Adrienne Broadus on KARE 11 above.

“12 Strong” (R)

It’s hard not to have mixed feelings about “12 Strong,” a new war drama based on a declassified story of the first 12 soldiers on the ground in Afghanistan after the terrorist attacks on America on September 11, 2001. For compelling historical reasons, it’s an important film, yet in terms of the way the film is presented, it comes off as more of a Jerry Bruckheimer action movie than it does a serious chronicle of the first Americans soldiers who set foot in Afghanistan to take on the Taliban.

Perhaps not surprisingly, Bruckheimer is the producer of “12 Strong,” which is a good and bad thing. It’s good in the fact that Bruckheimer been making movies for a long time and clearly knows how to assemble the right team needed for action adventures, but bad in that the movie’s narrative is far more concentrated on action than emotion.

AUDIO: Listen to Tim’s review of “12 Strong” with Tom Barnard on “The KQ Morning Show” (Segment begins 5 minutes in).

Simply put, a movie like “12 Strong,” where 12 Special Forces members selflessly volunteer for a mission where the odds of survival are slim, needed much more emotional impact than we get. Sadly, the film, while it chronicles the events of the Green Beret soldiers of the ODA 595 Special Forces Unit, comes off as more of a Cliff’s Notes version of the story where the true heart of the people involved in the story is left back home.

Directed by Danish filmmaker Nicolai Fuglsig, “12 Strong” begins with a look at the real-life terror Osama bin Laden caused in the years leading up to 9/11, beginning with the bombing attack on the World Trade Center beneath the North Tower in 1993. The film then shifts gears to coverage of the 9/11 attacks, where the likes of Capt. Mitch Nelson (Chris Hemsworth) and Chief Warrant Officer Hal Spencer (Michael Shannon) — who could have both settled for desk jobs at their respective points in their careers — without hesitation volunteer to go to Afghanistan to hunt down the Taliban.

Assembling a group of 10 more elite soldiers (Michael Pena and Ty Sheridan among them), the mission — dubbed Task Force Dagger —  is to meet up with an Afghan warlord (Navid Negahban), combine forces with the Afghan Northern Alliance and break the Taliban stronghold in Mazar-i-Shariff. If it’s successful, the plan will gut the heart of the enemy’s operation.

The story of “12 Strong” is no doubt interesting, considering U.S. soldiers in the year 2001 had no choice but to ride horses in Afghanistan because of the country’s rugged terrain. It was an extraordinary feat no doubt, but with the cinematic telling of the story, Fuglsig seems more intent on making “12 Strong” feel like a heightened, Hollywood action movie with one-dimensional characters rather than digging into the souls of these brave soldiers who knew that the mission could very well be their last. As Steven Spielberg proved with “Saving Private Ryan,” Clint Eastwood with “American Sniper” and Mel Gibson with “Hacksaw Ridge,” there’s a lot of emotional complexity involved in war, and nothing in “12 Strong” comes close to conveying those feelings.

Appropriately, “12 Strong” ends with an epilogue, including a photo of the 12 Green Berets of Task Force Dagger. It makes you proud seeing the faces from one of the most important (yet unknown) missions in the wake of 9/11, yet at the same time makes you wish it was better represented as a feature film about the story about what the Taliban considers its worst defeat. The soldiers of the mission — and those who keep up the fight today — deserve much better.

Lammometer: 6.5 (out of 10)

Tim Lammers reviews movies weekly for The KQ92 Morning Show,” “KARE 11 News at 11” (NBC), “The Tom Barnard Podcast” and “The BS Show” with Bob Sansevere.

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