12 Strong (Blu-ray) (2018)

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Released 13-Jun-2018

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Featurette-The Making of an Impossible Mission (22:03)
Featurette-Building America’s Response Monument (10:11)
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2018
Running Time 129:52
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Nicolai Fuglsig
Studio
Distributor

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Chris Hemsworth
Michael Shannon
David Negahban
Michael Pena
Trevante Rhodes
Thad Luckinbill
Geoff Stults
Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI ? Music Lorne Balfe


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
English Descriptive Audio Dolby Digital 2.0
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.40:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

     Immediately after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the US, special forces teams of Green Berets, called “First Responders”, were deployed to Afghanistan with groups that opposed the Taliban. One such team of 12 men, ODA 595, were tasked with meeting with, and supporting, a Northern Alliance Warlord in his push to capture an important town from the Taliban. Because the only means of transport through the Afghan mountains was horses, ODA 595 came to be known as the Horse Soldiers. Their story remained classified until 2014; a full size bronze statue of a horseman, termed the America’s Response Monument, is now permanently on display in Liberty Park, New York, adjacent to the Ground Zero memorial.

     Twelve members of ODA 595 led by Captain Mitch Nelson (Chris Hemsworth) and Chief Hal Spencer (Michael Shannon) are helicoptered into northern Afghanistan and make contact with General Dostum (Navid Negahban) and his militia who are fighting the Taliban to recapture the strategic town of Mazar-i-Sharif. After overcoming some initial mistrust the two groups, Americans and Afghans, move through the mountains towards the town; the first problem for the Special Forces team is that the only means of transportation is horses and, of the Americans, only Nelson is an accomplished rider. In addition, before they can take Mazar-i-Sharif, the group have to fight their way through a number of villages that the Taliban have fortified. The main task of Nelson and his men is to call in airstrikes in support of the Afghan fighters, but it soon becomes apparent that the Americans will have to take a more active role, even if that means charging Taliban armoured vehicles on horseback!! The days of horse cavalry were not quite over.

     12 Strong is based on a true story and the book Horse Soldiers by Doug Stanton. Produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, who has done a lot for the US military in his films, the technical details of the mission and the equipment feel authentic but the film is jingoistic and simplistic; the Taliban are nasty and evil, those fighting them are good and there is nothing of the moral quagmire that the conflict was mired in. In this the film is not unlike Vietnam films like The Green Berets (1968) or We Were Soldiers (2002). This is not for a moment to denigrate the courage, resourcefulness and self-sacrifice of the real soldiers of ODA 595 who put themselves in harm’s way but dialogue in 12 Strong something like “if we don’t stop them here there will be many more attacks in America” sounds trite, and we do know that, despite the “success” of this mission, many years of death and sacrifice remained.

     12 Strong is directed by Nicolai Fuglsig; it is only his second film and although there is nothing wrong with the direction it is nothing special either. After the first 60 minutes the battles are almost continuous and one of the strengths of the film is that much of the action and explosions were done practically and the sight of horsemen charging tanks down a valley through pyrotechnics is exhilarating; cavalry charges with pounding hooves and explosions are always worth watching. But what somewhat undermines the spectacle is that few of the American soldiers, with the exception of Nelson, Spencer or Sam Diller (Michael Pena), and none of the Afghans other than General Dostum, have been given backstories and individual identities so we remain detached amid the spectacle when they are in danger.

     Filmed in rugged terrain in New Mexico, 12 Strong has impressive scenery to go with its action. Chris Hemsworth and Navid Negahban are fine but they are really the only two in the film given any characterisation or much to do; the others just fire weapons.

     12 Strong is not really about the difficulties these soldiers faced in Afghanistan, such as not knowing the language, the culture, the terrain, or the loyalty of the militia; after a few scenes in the film of mutual suspicion and mutual testing this aspect of the story disappears. Nor is the necessity for untrained men to ride horses over difficult terrain explored after the first meeting of men and horses. Instead, the film soon becomes extended sequences of battles against hordes of enemy. In this sense, and without delving deeper into the issues, 12 Strong feels like an old fashioned battle film based on real events, which is not necessarily a bad thing. It is just that films like Black Hawk Down (2001) did it better.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     12 Strong is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.40:1, in 1080p using the MPEG-4 AVC code.

     Shot digitally, this print has the expected strong detail showing the dust and dirt on uniforms, blood and dirt on faces, the delicate manes of the horses and the detail on the vehicles. The rocky outcrops and dust of the desert are nicely differentiated. Colours have been only slightly manipulated to give a dusty feel and otherwise have a glossy, occasionally silvery, look. The red and yellow of explosions are bright, blacks solid. Shadow detail inside the caves is fine although in the sequence in the helicopter flying through the storm clouds at night it was a bit hard to make out the chopper amid the darkness. Skin tones are natural, contrast and brightness consistent. Marks and artefacts were absent although there was some motion blurring against jumbled rocks. This is not a vibrant print, but as we are in a desert war zone that is to be expected.

     English subtitles for the hearing impaired are available.

Video Ratings Summary
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Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     Audio is English DTS-HA MA 5.1 plus English descriptive audio (Dolby Digital 2.0) using a male voice.

     The audio is loud and enveloping in the action sequences with gunfire, the explosion of bombs, grenades and rockets, engines, yells, impacts and the thunder of hooves. The sequence when the team is in the helicopter on their way into Afghanistan is stunning with the rumble of the storm, the thunder of the rotors and the rattle of harnesses and equipment inside the chopper. Sometimes, as in this sequence, dialogue is hard to hear above the noise, at other times there are sections where everyone seems to be speaking at once, however I doubt that anything important will be missed. At other times it is mostly the music in the surrounds. The subwoofer adds boom to the engines, explosions, impacts and the thunder.

     The score by Lorne Balfe was appropriate for this type of film.

     There are no lip synchronisation issues.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

12 Strong: The Making of an Impossible Mission (22:03)

     This is a fairly standard making of looking at the historical background, the special forces teams that were sent to Afghanistan, the mission, the actors, the boot camp they attended, interactions with the Afghans, locations and horses. What elevates the extra above the normal is the involvement of two of the special forces men, Major Mark Nutsch and Chief WO Bob Pennington (now both retired) who took part in the mission and their commander in Afghanistan Lt. General John F Mulholland Jr. They talk about their feelings at the time, the actors who play them and watching the events, and themselves, portrayed on screen. Otherwise this extra uses on-set footage, some film clips, photographs taken at the time in Afghanistan and lots (and lots) of short sound bites from the author of the book Horse Soldiers on which the film is based Doug Stanton, screenwriter Ted Tally, director Nicolai Fuglsig, cast Chris Hemsworth, Michael Shannon, Trevante Rhodes, Michael Pena, Elsa Luckinbill, David Negahban, Geoff Stults, Thad Luckinbill, four producers, including Jerry Bruckheimer, the prop Master, production designer and 1st assistant director.

Monumental Effort: Building America’s Response Monument (10:11)

     Inspired by a photograph of an American Special Forces soldier on a horse in Afghanistan, sculptor Douwe Blumberg crafted a 14 inch bronze statue of the man and horse. He was later commissioned to make a full size bronze statue of the scene and raced against time to have it completed in time for a memorial parade in New York. This extra looks at the sculpting and delivery of the full sized statue. Termed, the America’s Response Monument, it is now permanently in Liberty Park New York adjacent to the Ground Zero memorial.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     The US Region A Blu-ray of 12 Strong adds a few extra dubs and subtitles but is otherwise the same as our release.

Summary

     The heroism and resourcefulness of these Special Forces soldiers in not in question. Dropped into a land where they did not know the language or the terrain, instructed to meet with an Afghan Warlord who may, or may not, sell them to the Taliban, what the men achieved was pretty amazing. The complexity of the situation in Afghanistan is, however, nowhere to be seen in 12 Strong but if you view the film as a straight forward action film, a western with goodies and badies, there is a lot to like, especially horsemen galloping into action.

     The video is good, the audio very good. The extras are worthwhile.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Saturday, August 04, 2018
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S580, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

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