12 STRONG – The Declassified True Story of the Horse Soldiers is an excellent war-is-hell film that is also a second unit director’s hottest fantasy, filled with post-9/11 Middle East conflict tropes we’ve seen before and an overabundance of the use of the word “flank.” They keep using it. I do not think it means what they think it means. In fact, you could make it a drinking game out of how often it’s used on screen.
The most important takeaways from the standpoint of military history are that uniting Afghan warlords toward a common purpose was a less interesting story than was killing lots of Al Quaeda and that had Al Quaeda leaders not worn so much mascara, they probably could have gotten more weapons through on their supply line rather than filling trucks up with makeup.
Also, it seems that (treading lightly here), this movie is portrayed as being a true story however the actual Horse Soldiers weren’t exactly an….ahem!….diverse group, so the insertion of a diverse cast makes this a bit revisionist. I say revisionist because by marketing the flick as a true story, they’ve taken more than creative liberties. Anyway, I liked it, there’s lots of guns and explosions and killing terrorists and its well-directed and edited, even if it focuses on the popcorn elements of the story. I guess I was hoping for Black Stallion meets Zulu meets Darkest Hour, and instead I got an incredible session of Call of Duty.
So that’s cool…