12 STRONG (Nicolai Fuglsig)

You’ve almost positively absolutely definitely totally in all probability seen 12 Strong before, but that still doesn’t make it ever less than enjoyable to watch.

In actuality, you may have LITERALLY read it before, because the movie is based on Doug Stanton’s New York Times bestseller Horse Soldiers, about the first Special Forces team deployed to Afghanistan to retaliate after 9/11, who mounted horses to traverse the dangerous terrain. Onscreen, it plays like yet another perfectly fine but forgettable escapist excursion depicting heroic Americans kicking ass and taking Middle Eastern names, rarely delving deeper than usual Hollywood revelries in purely-peerless good-guys vs. impurely puerile bad-guys. It basically has as much nuance as the relentlessly percussive score timed to give the audience heart-racing heart attacks upon the sight of guns ablaze, just in case anyone doubted they were witnessing HEART-STOPPING FEATS OF PERIL (it’s also the first example of how corny Dunkirk ripoffs will sound in the wrong hands).

In the name of concision: 12 Strong basically reeks of producer Jerry Bruckheimer’s involvement, a legendary purveyor of explosive — which is to say explosion-packed — spectacle. Casual moviegoers probably haven’t heard his name much since the naughts, but rest assured he’s still around, baby! Did you really think he’d disappear after helping to usher in this current age of tentpole studio franchises?

Then again, concision in this review would betray my continued efforts to reflect what’s being reviewed in my reviews. Though 12 Strong closely adheres to a tried and true formula that’s tried and true because it works, its excessive familiarity tends to ire and tire over what ultimately feels like an overly long two hours and ten minutes; excessive length is also par for Bruckheimer’s course.

As is 12 Strong’s superficially cool sheen and its vivid eye for coherently choreographed and captured action. But it comes up short in the visually stylish department, a departure from the days Michael Bay’s cinematic chicness defined Bruckheimer’s lauded look. Without that distinct directorial imprint and a polished veneer to derive distracting pleasure from while slogging through the predictably boring bits, 12 Strong‘s runtime just runs on and on.

Though the following suggestion may have forsaken the factual accuracy — always to be doubted in art anyways — it’s kind of baffling that there’s not more warfare ON HORSES shown, especially since it’s one of the only components of the story that separates it from the countless others. In the end, too much of it is reserved until, well, the end to achieve a sufficiently climactic climax. It’s unlike Bruckheimer not to seize upon the most uniquely kinetic part of a movie and then subsequently beat it into the ground like — I apologize for this one— a dead horse, as 12 Strong does with the rest of its overbearing tropes.

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