reviewed by: Raphael Vera
Courage / bravery / self-sacrifice
What is the Biblical perspective on war? Answer
war in the Bible
Chris Hemsworth … Captain Mitch Nelson
Michael Shannon … Chief Warrant Officer Hal Spencer
Michael Peña … Sgt First Class Sam Diller
William Fichtner … Colonel Mulholland
Elsa Pataky … Mitch's Wife
Taylor Sheridan … Brian
Geoff Stults … Sean Coffers
Rob Riggle … Colonel Max Bowers
Trevante Rhodes … Sgt First Class Ben Milo
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Black Label Media
Jerry Bruckheimer Films
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“On September 11, 2001 the world watched in terror. On September 12, 2001 they volunteered to fight.”
This movie was inspired by the history book Horse Soldiers: The Extraordinary Story of a Band of US Soldiers Who Rode to Victory in Afghanistan by Doug Stanton.
The terrorist attacks of 9/11 have just taken place on the World Trade Center and while most of the world is recoiling in shock, the United States military immediately begins working on retaliation. Already at home and planning his civilian life with his family is Captain Mitch Nelson (Chris Hemsworth) who, upon seeing the attack live on TV, decides that his just disbanded team must be the first ones to strike back at the enemy in terrorist-controlled Afghanistan.
Leaving their disappointed families, and in some cases their wives behind, Nelson’s team, Task Force Dagger, is dropped into Afghanistan to join forces with General Dostum (Navid Negahban) of the Northern Alliance. The team’s mission is to ride with the resistance, identify Taliban forces and then call in U.S. air support to weaken the enemy enough for the Afghan General’s troops to finish the job.
As happens often in war, things don’t always go according to plan. From an alliance made up of ‘warlords’ tenuously held together by their mutual hatred of the Taliban, to a country that historically has been the bane of the Russian army—or, in fact, any outside force attempting to seize control—Captain Nelson and his team will come to realize winning this one may cost all their lives, yet they heroically press forward regardless.
“12 Strong” is the true, declassified story behind America’s first strike back in the war on terrorism. The film, however, often lags and is not nearly as compelling as the full story would attest to, although, at times, it does an adequate job of portraying the courage these men faced amidst overwhelming odds. As with most modern war films, the inappropriate content primarily features violence and foul language.
Violence: Heavy. Men are killed by gunfire, grenades, mortars, missiles and bombs. Bloody victims are shown and several are shot in the head including, a female Afghan teacher who is killed for teaching young girls contrary to the Taliban’s edict. The Taliban leader is also seen interrogating the young girls beforehand, bringing them to tears in the process. Later some Taliban are seen being gunned down by their leader when they attempt to surrender. A suicide bomber is successful in killing those around him and body parts are strewn about in the aftermath. Men are seen vomiting from the cold, and from stress or injuries, and people are also seen on fire during battle. The level of violence is inappropriate for young children, and I urge parents to exercise extreme caution.
Language: Heavy. The Lord’s name is taken in vain 30 times—“G*dd**n” (15), J*sus (2), J*sus Chr**t (3), Chr**t (2), “G*d” (7). Vulgar or profane language includes the f-word (34+), “moth*r f***” (3), “sh**” (27), s.o.b. (1), “b*lls” (1), “n*ts” (1), “a**” (5), “a**-h***” (1), “bast**d” (1), “d*mn” (1), “h*ll” (10) and “p*ss.” Before the mission, one of the wives tells her husband that she will hold off on sex as a lure to bring him home, and he responds with a lewd suggestion. While adult level foul language is common on the battlefield, we should avoid this for the sake of our conscience just as the Word of God advises.
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. —Ephesians 4:29
A possible example of political correctness is the multiple uses of “God” by resident Afghans and the General. For the Muslim, the name of their god is “Allah” and to say otherwise makes it appear as though all worship the same ‘God.’ On the other hand, when a character makes a reference to the “riches” awaiting Muslim men in the after-life, the director may be forgiven for ignoring the sensual and lascivious nature of their blasphemous understanding of paradise.
The friendship that these ‘brothers-in-arms’ have is perhaps the most gratifying aspect of the film. Captain Nelson’s team is willing to follow orders to the death if necessary, and their comradery is a testament to their loyalty, which is commended in Holy Scripture.
…but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. —Proverbs 18:24
Unfortunately, the film does not show how Nelson’s team came to respect him so much, nor is any backstory provided on any of the other characters. A welcome addition to the film would’ve been a look back at either Sgt. Sam’s past or that of his Chief Warrant Officer Hal, played with gravitas by Michael Shannon.
The most interesting bond during the film, however, has to be the one we see developing between the American Captain and the Afghan General. Just as present day Arab nations and Israel share a common father, Abraham (see Genesis 17:19-20), the same God made a way for all people to be called His children through faith in His son, Jesus Christ.
Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God-children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. —John 1:12-13
The straightforward way in which the film unfolds may have been realistic for a military operation, but it makes for a less than captivating story. The telling of this first chapter in the war is a long overdue one, but aside from some good moments and an admittedly powerful final act, “12 Strong” misses the mark on what had the potential to be a great war film.
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.