Hollywood’s latest release, 12 Strong – based on the bestseller Horse Soldiers – opened in cinemas across the United States last weekend and tells the story of a crack US special forces team sent to Afghanistan shortly after the September 11 attacks.
Their job was to embed themselves with the Northern Alliance and fight the Taliban.
The movie tracks the soldiers operations through unforgiving terrain on horseback, while embedded with warlords of the north - neither side quite trusting the other - as they fought one of the initial battles to reclaim Afghanistan from the oppressive Taliban.
Chris Hemsworth stars as retired Special Forces Captain Mitch Nelson (based on the real-life Mark Nutsch), who has just started unpacking boxes with his wife (Elsa Pataky, the real Mrs. Hemsworth) and daughter in their new home when al-Qaedalaunched their deadly attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.
Nelson immediately heads to base and wants in on the American response even if he has yet to see actual combat himself. His commanding officer is understandably reluctant, but with the help of his Chief Warrant Officer Hal Spencer (the always dependable Michael Shannon), Nelson gets to re-assemble his squad and sneak them into Afghanistan.
There they meet General Abdul Rashid Dostum – played by Navid Negahban - who helps them find Taliban strongholds where they can stage ground assaults and call in airstrikes. Dostum simultaneously wants to intimidate the Americans and yet at the same time wave them in the face of the Taliban, represented by Khaled, who is played by Fahim Fazli.
Nelson is unsure of Dostum’s strategy and is worried about betrayal at every turn, while Dostum is concerned that the Americans have no idea what to do in this harsh country -- the “graveyard of empires” as he calls it -- and will abandon the mission if it gets too difficult.
The movie was however received with mixed reaction with many critics claiming not enough emphasis had been put on the horse aspect and that the shooting location, in New Mexico and California, had been out of context, compared to the harsh, unforgiving landscape of the mountainous north of Afghanistan.