Film Review: 12 Strong (dir by Nicolai Fuglsig)


12 Strong begins with a montage of terror.

The World Trade Center is bombed in 1993.  Planes are bombed.  Ships are attacked.  Bill Clinton gives a speech in which he impotently condemns Al-Qaeda.  Finally, we reach September 11th, 2001.  Captain Mitch Nelson (Chris Hemsworth) is playing with his daughter when she suddenly looks up at the TV behind him.  “Look, Daddy,” she says.  Nelson turns around and sees The World Trade Center on fire.

Even though he’s recently announced his intention to retire, Nelson reports for duty.  Despite the skepticism of his commanding officer (Rob Riggle), Nelson and 11 others are sent into Afghanistan.  Their mission is to meet up with a warlord named Abdul Rashid Dostum (Navid Negahban) and to capture territory from the Taliban.  Nelson is initially given 6 weeks to complete this task.  Nelson replies that he’ll get it done in three, before the harsh Afghan winter makes it impossible to move through the mountains.

Among the actors who make up Nelson’s team: Michael Shannon, Trevante Rhodes, Austin Stowell, and Geoff Stults.  Fortunately, the cast is made up of familiar faces.  Even though you might not learn everyone’s name, you still feel as if you know them because you’ve seen all of them playing similar roles in other movies.  (After his performance in Moonlight, it’s a bit disappointing to see Trevante Rhodes playing such a minor supporting role in his follow-up but still, he’s a charismatic actor and he has enough screen presence that he definitely makes an impression.)  Somewhat inevitably, Michael Pena plays the funny member of the team.  It’s not a 21st century action film without Michael Pena providing comedic relief.

(That’s actually a little unfair to Michael Pena, who is a good actor and who gives a pretty good performance in 12 Strong.  It’s just that he’s played this role so many times that it’s almost become a cliché that every action movie will feature Micheal Pena making jokes.)

When the team first meets up with Dostum, there’s immediate tension between the supposed allies.  As Dostum puts it, the United States only cares about getting rid of the Taliban but they don’t care about what will happen afterward.  When Dostum looks at Nelson, he immediately announces that Nelson does not have killer eyes.  Everyone else on the team has killer eyes but not Nelson.  Dostum and his men are even less impressed when they see the Americans struggling to ride the horses that are required to get through the mountains.  Will Nelson win Dostum’s respect?  Will he develop the eyes of a killer?

You probably already know the answer to that.  There’s really not a single moment in 12 Strong that you won’t see coming.  As soon as Dostum says that Nelson needs to prove himself in battle, you know that he’ll get a chance to do just that.  As soon as another soldier talks about home, you know that he’s going to be seriously wounded.  When you first spot the child soldiers among Dostum’s forces and you see one of them give Nelson a nervous smile, you know that child’s probably going to be one of the first casualties of the attack.

12 Strong is a predictable movie but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a bad one.  It’s a well-made film, with the cast all giving strong performances and director Nicolai Fuglsig doing a good job with the battle scenes.  My heart was racing during the film’s final battle.  New Mexico doubled for Afghanistan and the film features some truly stunning shots of the mountainous landscape.  The film even makes a point about why, after 17 years, there still doesn’t appear to be any end in sight to the War in Afghanistan.

Clocking in at 2 hours and 9 minutes, 12 Strong is probably about thirty minutes too long.  It’s a predictable movie but it’s well-made and the fact that it’s based on a true story does make it a bit more poignant than it would be otherwise.  It’s not a bad war film, particularly for January.

Lisa Cleans Out Her DVR: Guilty Pleasure No. 33: In the Mix (dir by Ron Underwood)


Back in January, I had to get a new cable box.  Sadly, when the boxes were switched, I lost everything that I had saved on the DVR.  Over a hundred movies and TV shows were wiped away!  However, I did not let this get me down.  Instead, I decided to take advantage of the fact that I now had a lot more free space by literally recording anything that looked the least bit interesting.

Well, the day of reckoning has finally arrived.  It is now March 21st and the DVR is nearly full.  So, for the next few weeks, I am going to clean out my DVR and review what I watch!  Now, I can’t say how long this is going to take.  In the past, I’ve always given myself unrealistic deadlines.  So, this time, I’m not giving myself a time limit.  Instead, I’m just going to start watching what I’ve got recorded and hope that I’m done by 2018.  We’ll see how it goes.

Anyway, I started things off by watching the 2005 mafia romance film, In the Mix.

I recorded In The Mix off of Starz on March 16th.  I did this despite the fact that I’ve actually seen In The Mix quite a few times.  In The Mix, which is technically a beyond terrible movie, is a bit of a guilty pleasure of mine.  It’s a bit like From Justin To Kelly or On The Line.  Even though all my instincts as a movie snob tell me not to do it, I can’t help but watch it.

In the Mix stars Usher as Darrell, the hottest DJ in New York.  Every woman wants him and every man wants to be him.  However, all Usher wants to do is hang out with the family of the local mob boss.  It turns out that Don Frank (Chazz Palminteri) was friends with Darrell’s father and Darrell is now friends with Frank’s son, Frankie Jr. (Anthony Fazio).  Frank hires Darrell to DJ his daughter’s birthday party.

(Frankie, Jr. is a white kid who wants to be black.  Personally, I think there’s probably an interesting story in the idea of the son of an old-fashioned Italian mafia don who idolizes — or appropriates, depending on how you look at it — black culture but Frankie, Jr.’s characterization pretty much starts and ends with him saying, “Yo.”)

At the party, Darrell quickly falls in love with Frank’s daughter, Dolly (Emmanuelle Chriqui) and Dolly likes him too.  Especially after he takes a bullet that was intended for her father.  While Darrell is recuperating at the mansion, Frank tells Dolly that she can’t go outside unless she has a bodyguard.  Dolly says that’s fine as long as the bodyguard is Darrell.

And you know what that means!  It’s time for a makeover montage as Darrell gets a whole new wardrobe!  Yay!

Anyway, the plot is about as predictable as the casting of Kevin Hart as Usher’s comedic sidekick and Robert Davi as a sinister gangster.  Dolly and Darrell fall in love but you already knew that was going to happen.  You also probably already guessed that Dolly already has a boring boyfriend named Chad (Geoff Stults) and that Darrell has a crazy ex-girlfriend named Cherise (K.D. Aubert).  And, of course, Frank is not initially happy with the idea of Dolly leaving her rich lawyer boyfriend so that she can be with Darrell.  However, Darrell eventually gets a chance to prove himself by rescuing Dolly from some rival gangsters and he’s welcomed into the crime family.  Of course, he gets shot a second time.  “If the ghetto’s so dangerous,” he says as he lies on the ground, “how come I keep getting shot by white people?”  Everyone has a good laugh as they wait for the ambulance.  That’s the type of movie that In The Mix is.

As I watched In The Mix, I realized that it was actually a lot worse than I remembered and yet, I still enjoyed it.  Why?  To be honest, it all comes down to Usher and Emmauelle Chriqui, both of whom look really, really good and who have enough chemistry that they can overcome an amazingly clunky script.  You reallydo believe that the two of them actually are into each other and you hope that things will work out for them because they’re such a ludicrously attractive couple.  In The Mix is an incredibly shallow and silly movie but the stars both look good when they kiss and, ultimately, that’s what a movie like this is all about.

That said, in the future, I probably won’t bother to set the DVR for it again.

Previous Guilty Pleasures

  1. Half-Baked
  2. Save The Last Dance
  3. Every Rose Has Its Thorns
  4. The Jeremy Kyle Show
  5. Invasion USA
  6. The Golden Child
  7. Final Destination 2
  8. Paparazzi
  9. The Principal
  10. The Substitute
  11. Terror In The Family
  12. Pandorum
  13. Lambada
  14. Fear
  15. Cocktail
  16. Keep Off The Grass
  17. Girls, Girls, Girls
  18. Class
  19. Tart
  20. King Kong vs. Godzilla
  21. Hawk the Slayer
  22. Battle Beyond the Stars
  23. Meridian
  24. Walk of Shame
  25. From Justin To Kelly
  26. Project Greenlight
  27. Sex Decoy: Love Stings
  28. Swimfan
  29. On the Line
  30. Wolfen
  31. Hail Caesar!
  32. It’s So Cold In The D