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Movie Night – ’12 Strong’ tells recently declassified story of soldiers

By Bradley Griffith

There have been many films, TV shows, and books about special forces, especially since September 11, 2001. Some, like “American Assassin” and “Lone Survivor,” were based on true stories. “12 Strong” is based on the true and recently declassified story of the horse soldiers who were the first American soldiers to go into battle after 9/11. “12 Strong” is now out in theaters.

Mitch Nelson (Chris Hemsworth) is a captain in the United States Army Green Berets. Just before September 11, 2001 Captain Nelson requested a desk job so he could spend more time with his family. Nelson’s second in command, Chief Warrant Officer Hal Spencer (Michael Shannon), had already turned in his retirement papers, but he quickly ripped them to shreds.

Nelson, Spencer, and the rest of the unit wanted to go to battle. It’s what they had trained for and it was their duty. They were one of several special forces units that were flown to Pakistan in the days after 9/11. Their team was selected to be the first soldiers to fight back after the cowardly terrorist attacks. Their mission, however, was incredibly difficult.

The group of twelve soldiers was dropped into the remote reaches of northern Afghanistan among mountain peaks over 10,000 feet high. Their initial mission was to meet up with an embedded CIA asset who would lead them to a remote encampment. They then met with General Abdul Rashid Dostum (Navid Negahban). General Dostum was one of the many warlords that made up the Northern Alliance, who despised the Taliban and their barbaric ways.

General Dostum’s job was to get the U.S. soldiers close enough to direct U.S. bombers flying overhead to drop bombs on the Taliban forces in northern Afghanistan. The ultimate goal of the mission was to seize control of Mazari Sharif, a city that was controlled by the Taliban and occupied a critical strategic position. 

Of all the stories that have been told about countless daring missions and acts of bravery after 9/11, the mission depicted in “12 Strong” was among the most difficult. Twelve men were dropped into one of the most rugged and isolated regions on Earth. Their only assistance on the ground was provided by a ragtag group of soldiers who mostly spoke other languages.  The first part of the mission was convincing General Dostum and his troops to trust them, and to determine if they could trust General Dostum.

They were 12 men along with a few hundred Northern Alliance fighters and their mission was to direct bombers to kill many thousands of men and hundreds of tanks, rocket launchers, etc.  They were dropped in the middle of nowhere in hostile territory and told to find a way to make it work. And they did. The most amazing part of the entire movie is that it was all based on a true story. It’s incredible what only twelve soldiers accomplished in just three short weeks.

More than many other movies and TV shows of the genre, “12 Strong” felt authentic. I’m certain that parts of the story were dramatized for entertainment purposes, but the movie made you feel more like you were watching real soldiers engaged in a real battle to the death rather than watching actors portray soldiers for money. The movie quickly pulled you out of the theater and into their world.

Of course, it is a war movie. There are plenty of gunfights, explosions, rockets being launched, helicopters flying in and out, and many people dying. If you like war movies, you will enjoy “12 Strong.” It includes all the elements a war movie needs to succeed.

Just before the credits roll a photograph of the real men who fought this battle is shown. That photograph really drove home the point that this really happened, that these men really risked everything to battle evil and that they deserve our praise and our thanks.

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Grade: A-

Rated R for violence and language throughout.