12 Strong is Just What Theaters Need Right Now.

It looks like the curse of January has broken with 12 Strong being the first pretty decent film of the year. Of course, that’s all relative since the beginning of the year isn’t really known for offering anything award-worthy. Still, 12 Strong is the first breathe of fresh air to hit theaters since the new year and most of that is due to its enthralling action sequences and casts some of the manliest men Hollywood could cough up. As far as Iraq War movies go, this is a pretty damn good one.

Chris Hemsworth goes from throwing lightning bolts to leading Special Forces soldiers and to be honest the uniform fits him rather well. In the past, I’ve never really seen him as a leading man with movies like Black Hat failing so miserably. However, I’ve always thought he has a sort of untapped talent, especially when it comes to his charisma. In 12 Strong, he’s finally given a role that makes more use of his abilities to lead a movie than to take his shirt off. It certainly doesn’t hurt that he’s joined by the likes of Michael Shannon, Michael Pena, and Navid Negahban. Even Ron Riggle manages to somehow be a good fit for this film, considering it’s not much of a comedy. Honestly, the cast really sells it as they get down and dirty as the Green Berets who are the first on the ground after 9/11.

12 Strong
Nothing like a spot of tea before all out war.

While the actors certainly do their part when it comes to making 12 Strong stands out as one of the better war movies in recent history (and there have been a lot over the past few years), the movie resorts to sentimentality at first in an attempt to create empathy for them. It’s a shame though because the actor’s chemistry and charisma are what really makes you care about their characters. In a sense, the first 15 minutes or so of the movie is wasted on heavy-handed goodbyes and overly emphasized “soldiers wives” cliches. It’s all stuff we’ve seen time and time again, but it feels a bit too formulaic to be meaningful. It’s not until they hit the ground running that 12 Strong really starts to take shape. Trust me when I say it’s a pretty harrowing tale from the get go too.

If you’re like me then you like your war movie with lots of action. In that regards, 12 Strong is reminiscent of Black Hawk Down. There are certainly moments of downtime, which is terrific for the pacing, but 12 Strong isn’t afraid to get down and dirty when it comes to the combat sequences. It’s filled to the brim with plenty of explosions and lots of blood to go with it. Luckily, it isn’t unnecessarily brutal, but there are definitely a few death sequences that aren’t for the squeamish. I certainly have to hand it to the actors during these scenes though, because they definitely make it all seem like second nature.

12 Strong
Needless to say, there are a lot of horses.

12 Strong is a compelling story, made even more so by the fact that it’s based on true events. However, the script is nothing to write home about. Most of this movie is carried on the backs of the actors and the direction of Nicolai Fuglsig. Part of my enthusiasm might be the fact that I’ve been deprived of anything semi-decent for over 2 weeks, but I still think that 12 Strong is the first movie of 2018 that I can confidently say is enjoyable. It’s very much what you might come to expect from a war flick, but the fact that it’s based on true events somehow seems to make it all the more honorable. It’s a truly courageous tale, which sets the bare bones needed to let the actors really carry it and make it greater than the sum of its parts. Best of all, it’s an Iraq War movie that really manages to capture the reason why we went over there in the beginning and reminds us that not everyone is a bad guy. Though trust me when I say the bad guys in this movie are despicable. It’s a movie that can give us pride in the heroism of the United States without chanting “USA USA” like a drunken frat boy. For my money, 12 Strong is a movie worth seeing in theaters.