Exactly how many misspent words would it take me to lose 80% of my readership?
That’s the question I’ve asked myself, given the fact a sizeable portion of the audience for this blog is female and I’m about to talk at length on the subject of war movies, and one war movie in particular.
12 STRONG is a newly released movie starring Thor (Chris Hemsworth) based on a non-fiction book published in 2010 called HORSE SOLDIERS by New York Times bestselling author and journalist Doug Stanton ( www.dougstanton.com ) It relates the true life account of a small band of Special Forces soldiers who secretly entered Afghanistan following 9/11 and rode to war on horses against the Taliban.
As a movie spectacle, this film is packed with wall to wall intricately choreographed battle sequences and enough deafening bombs and custom-built assault rifle gunfire to satisfy the most seasoned combat film aficionado. From a technical point of view it’s all very solid.
Yet 12 STRONG ends up being at best an almost-good film due to the presence of extremely thinly drawn characters and the lack of any real tension or twists or turns in the storyline. A disappointing lack of depth and nuance will prevent most people from engaging emotionally during any point in this film.
Instead, for most of the time the experience of 12 STRONG is like being made to watch someone else play a first-person shooter video game; one in which they’re tasked with blowing away wave after wave of faceless enemy in a pathos-less exercise in aim and shoot. The bad guys in the story are the tens of thousands of turban-clad, 2001-vintage Taliban fighters. Yet apart from a brief showing of news footage depicting the collapse of the World Trade Centre Twin Towers and a scene where a Taliban leader executes a woman found guilty of educating girls over the age of eight, there’s zero attempt to make you believe the enemy are a force of evil desperately in need of vaporizing and deserving of one’s loathing.
That’s called lazy filmmaking and the result is a strictly by-the-numbers attempt at injecting something fresh into the 9/11 narrative. If you crave seeing an excellent military flick, one that is equal parts thriller genre as well, get yourself a DVD copy of 2017’s THE WALL, starring Aaron Taylor-Johnson (KICK-ASS & KICK-ASS 2).
Set during the Iraq War, it tells the story of two American soldiers pinned down in a cross-haired game of cat and mouse with an Iraqi sniper. There’s no Chris Hemsworth but its got rocket-launchers full of something completely missing from 12 STRONG – tension. Real, nerve-jangling. edge-of-your-seat tension.
If that’s still not enough to get your cammo ‘n combats on – try any of these beauts for size from my list of all-time fave war films-
Ps. Military not your thang? Then thanks for waiting patiently. Today begins the first of an occasional series where I relate the plot of a novel that sounds in some manner interesting.
Most of us have had the experience of ploughing through a book we were enticed to read by the intriguing sounding back-cover blurb only to encounter a story much longer than it seems and plots and characters that induce sleepiness. So I caution… these are storylines that sound interesting, at least to me, while the experience of actually reading the book may be a somewhat different thing –
A woman wakes up in hospital with no memory but is told she’s been in an horrific car accident and was apparently driving recklessly. Witnesses assume she was out of her mind on drugs; blood tests show otherwise but provide absolutely no clue as to what caused her to be running traffic lights at high-speed as though fleeing for her life.
Until now she has enjoyed a quietly affluent life in the suburbs with an adoring husband. She seems anxious to recover and regain her memory, but strange things keep happening.
There’s a neighbour who was once a friend but now is not, and her husband may not be all he seems. Then a body shows up, not far from the site of her mysterious accident.
6 thoughts on “Not Strong Enough”
Sounds like a book I would be interested in but I know what you’re saying about stories not living up to the blurb. I’ve had that experience.
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I believe that experience is known in some circles as ‘all teaser no pleaser’.
Thanks again Glen for your very entertaining Blog. In regards to “12 Strong”, I have seen the movie and enjoyed it as pure escapist entertainment. As you’ve said, the battle scenes were excellent, and I did care about Chris Hemsworth’s character, but that’s about it. The other characters just fade into the background, and that certainly detracts from what could have been a great movie.
I’m not a war movie buff like you Glen, and I felt inadequate commenting on this topic after seeing your top 20. I haven’t seen them all, like you Glen, but I agree, First Blood, The Great Escape, Saving Private Ryan, Platoon, Gallipoli and Crimson Tide are classics. What’s the common denominator? They all have heart. They are all character driven masterpieces, if you can call a Sly Stallone movie a masterpiece.
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Since as far back as the 1980’s I have dared attach the coveted label ‘masterpiece’ to a number of Sly Stallone movies (though I wisely stopped short of doing this to 1992’s STOP! OR MY MOM WILL SHOOT) back when it was politically incorrect to do so – at least amongst my leftie-leaning, arts-degree Uni mates (one of whom I recall wore a beret) of that era.
Show me the person who watches the end of FIRST BLOOD (1982) where Rambo breaks down crying and still insists Stallone can’t act and I’ll show you a person sitting comfortably in the box seat of snobby delusion. This speech from the end of ROCKY 4 (1985) is attributed by many as helping to end the Russia vs America cold war that had raged since soon after the end of WW2 right up to around 1991 when the Soviet Union collapsed and, which sadly, looks likely to reignite given the events of just this past week.
Is that a tear I can see in ‘Gorbachev’s’ eye at the 1min 25 second mark?
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Interesting how they depicted so many of the Russians as somewhat like cardboard. They certainly did in the leadership box too. At first I thought it was just a form of projection, and then remembered that totalitarian government does produce a certain plastic visage as everyone masters the art of concealing what one really thinks.
It was probably an accurate portrayal in some respects, perhaps similar to what we see today coming out of North Korea, except for the poorly concealed hatred of the sister of Little Rocket Man towards anyone of American origin during the recent Olympics.
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It does appear that Nth Korea has managed to pull off the same plastic veneer on the faces of its (hungry) citizens as is depicted in the Russian crowd in the Rocky 4 clip. And yes everyone masters the art of concealing what they really think.
Australia on the other hand, has the opposite end of the stick in that every man and his alsation is prepared to weigh in their point of view on everything from how the country should be run to fashion advice about complementary colours and not mixing ya bloody stripes! (Don’t ever do that btw).