12 Strong

12 Strong 2

There are more than a dozen big names attached to this purposeful and often powerful war story, but perhaps the one with the biggest impact is behind the scenes, Jerry Bruckheimer. Because for all of its big star, big budget verve, this adaptation of the first Marines’ revenge for the 9/11 attacks is also a procedural drama, melding a few of the producer’s other hits, not just Black Hawk Down, but CSI, this time: Afghanistan.

Chris Hemsworth, who proved he can do far more than just flex Thor’s muscles in the criminally underseen ‘Rush’, is nicely cast as battle field novice Mitch Nelson, who leads a crew of a dozen into the dusty back country of war lords, Al Qaeda and Taliban. Accompanied by specialists played wonderfully by Michael Shannon, Michael Pena, Geoff Stults and Trevante Rhodes, who almost steals the picture, the American soldiers spend just about half the movie preparing and then, in country, pair up with a local General (Navid Negahban, ‘Homeland’) who not only acquiesces to take them close to enemy camps, but provides some heavy philosophy along the way,

Don’t be thinking this is a thoughtful, esoteric mediation on the effects of war. But thanks to its top notch actors, director Nicolai Fuglsig’s moving camera and Peter Craig and Ted Tally’s script, this is not a dumb war-is-a-blast picture, either. There’s plenty of blasting, but also just enough of a reflection on the personal impact all that TNT delivers to make this salute to some true American heroes not just sturdy, but substantial.