We’ve clearly reached peak war-genre when Michael Bay and Jerry Bruckheimer enter the fray (13 Hours and 12 Strong, respectively — I’m sure the naming conventions are just coincidence). Over the last decade we’ve had over a dozen serious movies about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the broader war against terrorism (The Hurt Locker, Green Zone, American Sniper), which examined the conflicts from the perspectives of Soldiers, civilians, journalists, and politicians.
Each of these films depicted war from different perspectives and angles, though most included combat to one degree or another. The challenge in making such movies comes in balancing jingoistic action-adventure against the graphic realities of kinetic conflict, while also expressing respectful, authentic, and accurate depictions of the actual men and women who fought there. It’s an incredibly difficult tightrope to walk for any filmmaker.
In the immediate days following 9/11, the U.S. Special Forces invaded Afghanistan, led by the Army’s Green Berets, Navy Seals, Delta Force, and Air Force Combat Controllers (Marine Force Recon did not participate in the initial invasion). The Army sent several 12-man Green Beret teams (aka ODAs or A-Teams) to infiltrate Afghanistan from the north and the south, where they linked-up with deposed warlords and resistance fighters, such as General Abdul Rashid Dostum and future president Hamid Karzai — the former is the focus of Jerry Bruckheimer’s 12 Strong film, which is based the book Horse Soldiers, by journalist Doug Stanton.
12 Strong appears to be a serious war film with a heaping helping of action-adventure. The film stars Chris Hemsworth, Michael Shannon, and Michael Peña, who play real-life Green Berets from ODA-595, among the first American troops on the ground after 9/11. The story is essentially a survival tale, as ODA-595 fought the Taliban on horseback while outnumbered by as much as 40 to one, as they sought to capture the strategic city of Mazar-i-Sharif.
In my video game days I worked with Captain Jason Amerine on the America’s Army first-person-shooter simulation; Amerine commanded ODA-374 in southern Afghanistan — his team worked with future Afghanistan president Hamid Karzai to secure the key city of Kandahar. I mention this because Amerine (and other Green Berets involved in these operations) shared their experiences with our developers — their stories were harrowing beyond imagination and certainly in line with the events portrayed in this film. Riding horses in combat vs. tanks is only a small part of the amazing and nearly incomprehensible actions our special forces conducted overseas during the early days of the Afghanistan war.
The 12 Strong trailer suggests that Bruckheimer’s team approached this story with appropriate reverence. The cast is solid and the action looks intense. The events depicted in 12 Strong are real, though certainly tweaked somewhat for Hollywood. In 2012 a 16-foot-tall, bronze statue of a ‘Horse Soldier’ commemorating these special operations Soldiers was placed near One World Trade Center in New York, as evidence of their bravery and accomplishments — let’s hope the film does equal justice to their sacrifices.
How do you feel about a serious Afghanistan war film by Jerry Bruckheimer? Let us know in the comments down below!
12 Strong hits theaters on January 19, 2018.
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SOURCE: Warner Bros. Pictures