Plot: What’s it about?
I’m still amazed at the seemingly endless wave of oddities that were caused by the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. It changed so many lives, our country and probably tens of thousands of things we don’t even think about. There’s a generation of kids who can’t remember going to the airport and not going through airport security. Hell I’ve almost forgotten what it was like pre-9/11. Even my own life was affected in a roundabout way that I won’t discuss in the confines of this review. We’ve had our fair share of 9/11 movies, some good and others not so much. I think this date, like Pearl Harbor or even World War II will continue to be an “inspiration” for filmmakers since so many lives were affected by it. The latest entry is the Chris Hemsworth vehicle 12 Strong, based on the true story of the “Horse Soldiers” due to the fact that they had to ride horses across the desert to accomplish their mission.
We meet Capt. Mitch Nelson (Chris Hemsworth), a perpetual “tough guy” who’s always spouting out one-liners. He’s in command of an elite special forces unit that’s been selected to be the first into Afghanistan. Bear in mind this was just days after the September 11 attacks. Their mission is fairly simple, though extremely dangerous: cross a nearly uncrossable terrain and convince Gen. Rashid Dostum (Navid Negahban) to cooperate with them in fighting the Al Qaeda and the Taliban. The movie tells their story, which is arguably pretty impressive, but mixes it up with corny flashbacks of the requisite “worried wife back home” in this case it’s Nelson’s and she’s played painstakingly by Elsa Pataky.
With such a large cast, there’s got to be a focal point and as you might have guessed – it’s Hemsworth’s character. There are some othe recognizable faces in the mix with the always interesting Michael Shannon, the always comical Michael Pena and real-life Marine-turned actor Rob Riggle. I list all of this because all of the elements are there. But then again this is a Jerry Bruckheimer-produced film and, as such, it’s got to have things that are way over the top. I’m not knocking Bruckheimer, he knows how to make an action film, but this one should have been toned down. The true story of the “Horse Soldiers” is actually quite fascinating, but this is more of a demoralization than anything else.
Video: How’s it look?
The film certainly has a very unique look and feel to it. Somewhat similar to what Steven Spielberg did with Saving Private Ryan, 12 Strong has a very graded and gritty look and feel to it. The mountains, the desert all have a very rich contrast to them that gives the film an almost surreal look. Maybe I’ve seen one too many Marvel movies, but I kept waiting for a hammer to appear in Hemsworth’s hand. Kidding aside, the 2.40:1 AVC HD image is razor sharp and is perhaps one of the few redeeming qualities of the film. If you’re looking at this from a sheer visual perspective (and I often am) you won’t be disappointed.
Audio: How’s it sound?
The included DTS HD Master Audio track has ample opportunity to flex its muscle as well. The mix has more of a constant low grade “mumble” for lack of a better term, but it will engage the LFE. Vocals are straight-forward, though sometimes tend to get lost in the mix (pardon the pun) of the action on screen. Surrounds offer a bit of support during some of the action-oriented scenes. It’s a good, but not overly impressive, track.
Supplements: What are the extras?
- 12 Strong: The Making of an Impossible Mission – Jerry Bruckheimer discusses the finer points of the film as well as members of ODA 595 discuss their mission.
- Monumental Effort: Building America’s Response Monument – Douwe Blumberg, the sculptor who created the monument that stands at Ground Zero in New York, gives as a bit of history and his inspiration.
The Bottom Line
There’s nothing particularly “wrong” with the film, it’s just kind of…there. The characters are one-dimensional and the film is full of cliches while attempting to tug at the heartstrings of its viewers. Visually and sonically, it’s worth its weight but I just can’t see too many people adding this one to their collection. Add to that the rather mundane assortment of “extras” and you’ve got a dud on your hands.