12 Strong (or also known as 12 Strong: The Declassified True Story of the Horse Soldiers) is a 2018 American war drama film that was directed by Nicolai Fuglsig and written by Ted Tally and Peter Craig. The film is based on Doug Stanton’s non-fiction book titled Horse Soldiers, which tells the story of CIA paramilitary officers and U. S. Special Forces, in addition to USAF Combat Controllers, sent into Afghanistan immediately after the September 11 terrorist attacks. The film stars Chris Hemsworth, Michael Shannon, Michael Pena, Navid Negahban, Trevante Rhodes, Geoff Stults, Thad Luckinbill, William Fichtner, and Rob Riggle.
It centers around Captain Mitch Nelson (Hemsworth), who works with Operational Detachment Alpha (ODA) 595, as he is moving into a new home with his wife and daughter on September 11, 2001. Nelson had previously been assigned to staff duty under LtCol. Bowers (Riggle), but volunteers to lead ODA 595 into Afghanistan. CWO5 Spencer (Shannon) was scheduled to retire, but volunteers for an additional deployment. After leaving their families, ODA 595 travels to Uzbekistan on October 7, 2001. After receiving a brief from 5th Special Forces Group Commander, Col. Mullholland (Fichtner), ODA 595 is selected to fight alongside the Northern Alliance leader, Abdul Rashid Dostum.
Principal photography for 12 Strong began in January 2017 in New Mexico. The film was released in the United States on January 19, 2018 by Warner Bros. Pictures, in standard and IMAX theaters. It has received mixed reviews from film critics, who praised the cast and the action, but criticized the by-the-numbers execution and lack of hindsight of the War in Afghanistan.
The Film Itself (4.5/5):
12 Strong centers around a tragedy that a lot of us had to unfortunately witness from afar on that day back in 2001, and the men who were first on the ground beginning the continuous war against the Taliban. The performances from all cast members, both titular and not were absolutely fantastic in this film. This movie tells us a story about these brave people and their experiences right from the get-go as they all put their lives on the line to help defend our country. Hemsworth’s performance was considerably notable and really stood out to both my wife and I as you could really see him putting his heart into his role as Captain Mitch Nelson.
Picture Quality (4/5):
I was genuinely surprised to see how great 12 Strong looked on my living room television. While we do have the necessary technology that is required to allow us to experience stories like this, the only complaint that I had with the visuals was that of the scenes that took place during the “final charge” as I would call it. There were some issues with the shots that included Hemsworth and his crew as they made their way down the mountain and that they were obvious green screen shots. I feel that there could have been a much better job done in terms of smoothing the green-screen shots into the more natural environmental shots. Other than that, this film looked just like any other war film on Blu-ray in 1080p. The explosions that were carried out from the airstrikes were extremely like-like with the camera angles that were used for these shots, made those moments really stand out. I can only imagine how this would have looked had they made this film available on UHD with a pass of HDR.
Audio Quality (3.75/5):
Packaged with an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 audio track, 12 Strong does everything that it can within its power to offer an all out immersive experience for its viewers. While there was proper usage of the front and rear channels, I feel that this movie would have done significantly better had they gone with the inclusion of the surround channels, specifically for the immersive experience with the air strikes or as they encounter some trouble during their ventures in the mountain range facing off against the Taliban. Hell, I would have been more impressed had they gone with Atmos with those air strikes. But, alas, the 5.1 track was clean, effective, allowing everything to be heard and understood without having to adjust the volume levels throughout
The Packaging (2/5):
12 Strong comes packaged in your standard two-disc Blu-ray amaray case. Within that case is the standard Blu-ray copy of the film as well as the standard DVD copy. Neither of those discs feature any artwork that’s related to the film at all outside of the standard release text and generic black or non-existent background. A digital copy redemption pamphlet has also been included, as well as a slipcover that’s been provided during the initial print run of the release that features the same artwork that’s available on the case art.
Special Features (2.5/5):
The special features that were included on the Blu-ray release of 12 Strong, while there’s only a couple of them, offered what I would have wanted in terms of additional content as they explore the story at hand as well as some of the work that went into making this film. The only thing that I could think of that could have been included was a feature audio commentary to go along with the film too. Included with this release is:
- 12 Strong: The Making Of An Impossible Mission
- Monumental Effort: Building America’s Response Monument
Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Original Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
English SDH, French, Spanish
Original Film: 130 minutes
Overall, I was really happy that I picked up 12 Strong for my collection. Having been in high school during the attacks in New York, I knew that this story would have been something that I wanted to learn more about, and this film allowed for some undocumented aspects of the beginning steps of that war to be experienced, prompting me to research it further. The presentation by all cast members of this movie were absolutely fantastic, and I cannot recommend this movie enough to my colleagues who were old enough to not only see what happened that day, but those who remember where and what they were doing so vividly. That said, you can pick up 12 Strong on Blu-ray or DVD today as it came out on Blu-ray and DVD on May 1, 2018.