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12 Strong also known as “12 Strong - The Declassified True Story of the Horse Soldiers,” “Horse Soldiers,” “12 Heróis,” “12 Hrabrih,” “12 Indomáveis,” “12 stipriausiu,” “12 δυνατοί,” “A lovasság,” “Tropa de héroes,” «Кавалерия»

MPAA Rating: R-Rating (MPAA) for war violence and language throughout.

reviewed by: Raphael Vera

Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
• Adults • Young Adults • Older Teens
War History Action Drama
2 hr. 10 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
January 19, 2018 (wide—3,002 theaters)
DVD: May 1, 2018
Copyright, Warner Bros. click photos to ENLARGE
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Warner Bros.


Courage / bravery / self-sacrifice

What is the Biblical perspective on war? Answer

war in the Bible

Copyright, Warner Bros. Copyright, Warner Bros. Copyright, Warner Bros. Copyright, Warner Bros. Copyright, Warner Bros. Copyright, Warner Bros. Copyright, Warner Bros.
Featuring: Chris HemsworthCaptain Mitch Nelson
Michael ShannonChief Warrant Officer Hal Spencer
Michael PeñaSgt First Class Sam Diller
William FichtnerColonel 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
See all »
Director: Nicolai Fuglsig
Producer: Alcon Entertainment
Black Label Media
Jerry Bruckheimer Films
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Distributor: Distributor: Warner Brothers Pictures. Trademark logo.
Warner Bros.

“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.

Content of concern

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

Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man. —Matthew 15:11, 17-20

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.

Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. —John 15:13

…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.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. —John 3:16

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

Final Thoughts

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.

  • Violence: Heavy
  • Profane language: Heavy
  • Vulgar/Crude language: Very Heavy
  • Nudity: None
  • Sex: Minor

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.

Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Positive—This is a true story which, graphically, reveals what our brave soldiers do for our country. Parents should take children (over 10) to see what the words bravery, duty, and honor really mean. I simply cannot recommend this film highly enough.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Excellent! / Moviemaking quality: 4½
Leonardo, age 76 (USA)
Positive—This is a very graphic war story that needed to be told. The bravery of these men and the mission they accomplished, much of it due to the integrity and leadership of the captain was incredible. My nephew and I enjoyed it, the women didn’t. Lots of language, violence, and blood, but heroics and commitment as well.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Very Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4½
Dennis, age 64 (USA)
Positive—Didn’t miss the mark for my wife and I. Although we shuttered at every misuse of God’s Name, every F-word, every profanity and every act of violence; the movie told a story that was true and factual. We could see the hand of God on the characters.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Very Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4
Michael Parker, age 67 (USA)
Positive—I enjoyed this movie a lot. I always love a good true story. The plot was great and realistic. I found it cool that Micheal Shannon and Michael Pena were casted in another 9/11 film. They both were in the movie 9/11 with Nick Cage in 2006. Chris Hemsworth did a great job! The horse battle scenes were awesome, like nothing that I have seen before in a modern war film. I don’t think Rotten Tomatoes gave an appropriate score of (54%). The movie “Dunkirk” from 2017 was boring and didn’t build any characters, and it was very confusing… and got (92%) the music that was humming in the background lasted the whole time… I just wanted it to stop lol.

This movie captured heroism and what everyone was going through and felt after the 9/11 attacks. Go and see it if you get the chance! You will enjoy 12 STRONG.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Excellent! / Moviemaking quality: 4½
Jonathan, age 23 (USA)
—I was drawn to “12 Strong,” because my wife’s cousin was a sniper in Afghanistan and won an award for his bravery while being pinned down in a gorge using his dead comrades” bodies for cover! An earthy true life movie with great action, tension, cinematography about 12 brave American soldiers serving their country in the wake of 9/11. One thought in this genre is always—so many bullets are flying, rockets are exploding and missiles are blasting and the heroes barely get a scratch! Hollywood liberties? Or just truth?
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 4½
Christopher Marsden, age 62 (USA)

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