Directed by: Nicolai Fuglsig
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Michael Shannon, Michael Peña, William Fichtner, Rob Riggle
If you’ve read some of my reviews on here before, you’ll know I’m a sucker for films based on true events, such as ‘Deepwater Horizon‘, ‘The Founder‘, and ‘Jackie‘ to name just a few I’ve written about for JUMPCUT. So with ’12 Strong’ riding into cinemas recently I thought I’d add another under my belt!
Following the devastating 9/11 terror attacks, a highly trained team comprising of CIA paramilitary offices and US forces, ‘Operational Detachment Alpha 595’ (ODA 595) flew out to Afghanistan to begin a secret and highly dangerous mission to fight back against Taliban forces. Once there, the task force must work alongside General Abdul Rashid Dostum of the Northern Alliance to push the Taliban out of Mazar-e-Sharif for good.
Hemsworth takes the lead as Captain Mitch Nelson, who was just about to start a role working behind the desk in an office rather than on the front lines before the terror attacks. It goes without saying that Michael Shannon gives another strong performance, despite his character getting less screen time than probably deserved. Michael Peña, Trevante Rhodes, Thad Luckinbill, and the rest of the squad also deliver believable and fantastic performances, often resorting to humour and wise cracks to lighten tense and serious situations, however these don’t feels shoehorned in and are delivered like genuine banter amongst brothers in arms. William Fichtner only appears briefly in a handful of scenes as Colonel Mulholland, but he certainly makes an impression as he sports a shiny bald head (which I found very distracting!).
Fuglsig may not be a director you recognise the name of, but there’s a very high chance you’ve seen some of his previous work, which has mostly been commercials. One that might ring a bell is for Sony Bravia in which 250,000 colourful bouncing balls were let loose on the largest hill in San Francisco. It would seem producer Jerry Bruckheimer took a risk offering the director’s chair to Fuglsig, given his lack of experience on feature films, but all in all I think he did a reasonably good job on such a demanding film. The direction is good and it has a familiar feel to war films we’ve seen before, which is by no means a bad thing.
Lorne Balfe provides the accompanying score for the film and does an incredible job of keeping you in the moment. There are some truly heart racing scenes in amongst some slower, and quite frankly boring, moments but Balfe’s score fits in so perfectly to whatever is going on that it keeps you engaged. Another winner from Balfe!
’12 Strong’ has got a lot of heart and, from what I’ve read, doesn’t steer too far from the truth for dramatic effect, unlike other films based on true events, and it’s the solid cast at the forefront of this film that really make it what it is. It’s a real slow burner that never really has it’s BIG moment, but it does well to deliver edge-of-your-seat tension. The big, slow build up to the third act is definitely worth it as we witness the events that lead to the mission’s conclusion. I highly recommend seeking this out at the cinema if it sounds like your kind of film.
Tom’s Rating: 6.5/10