This week we had the opportunity to experience a private viewing of Jerry Bruckheimer’s newest film, 12 Strong. Based on the bestselling book Horse Soldiers by Doug Stanton, 12 Strong tells the real-life story of the U.S. Special Forces team that was sent into Afghanistan directly following the events of 9/11 to fight the Taliban.

Two hours of nail-biting action, warlord politics, and a little horse humor made for an eye-opening look into the lives of the men and Afghan allies who lead the way in combat in 2001. The reality of what these men had to go through is truly fascinating. They accomplished an extremely dangerous mission with a projected timeline of two years in THREE WEEKS. The sheer will, ingenuity, and belief in their operation absolutely deserved a film adaptation.

Still unconvinced? Here are a few reasons why we believe 12 Strong is a MUST-SEE film of 2018.

1. It really happened.

That’s right. According to NationalInterest.org, Hollywood did us a favor and "brought in a group of both currently-serving and retired U.S. special operators, including Mark Nutsch himself, to make sure that the film didn't veer too far from the true story, specifically in how they represented the soldiers." They wanted the story to maintain as much integrity as possible. Luckily, it didn’t need much in the way of an enhanced rewrite. The actual events were so bizarre and unlikely that the drama wrote itself. While Hollywood did take some artistic liberties by adding some drama and modifying timelines, the most important elements of this amazing battle were kept intact and factual.

Check out this article for more info on the specific accuracies within the film: http://www.historyvshollywood.com/reelfaces/12-strong/

2. It challenged our view of the Middle East…in a good way.

One of the most poignant parts of 12 Strong was the emphasis they placed on the Afghan allies. It’s important to note that it wasn’t the entire nation of Afghanistan that attacked the Twin Towers that day. It was a select group and a select belief system. We, as Americans, have a tendency to compact the Middle East into one giant terrorist regime, and seeing this movie wrecked those assumptions.

It was a complicated time for the Middle East. The tribal rivalries were intense, as well as the extreme weather and terrain. There were no previous military treaties or alliances. No common interests, with ONE exception: They all hated the Taliban. This mission was dangerous on many levels, and the men involved were unaware of the complications they’d face. It was their tenacity and masterful political maneuvering that truly made their trek successful.

12 men were never meant to fight the Taliban alone. At the time, there was a Northern Alliance within Afghanistan lead by former maniacal warlord and now Vice President of Afghanistan, General Abdul Rashid Dostum. Without their assistance and intel throughout the mission, our presence would have been inconsequential. The movie honors that alliance with a dynamic portrayal of Dostum’s strengths albeit dictatorial leadership.

Chris Hemsworth, who portrayed Mark Nutsch in the film, explained America's relationship with the Northern Alliance this way:

"They can do the direct attack, obviously, and we do in this movie. But the bigger challenge and the talent of what these guys achieved was the relationship they formed with Dostum, the warlord they were fighting with, and getting him to trust them, leveraging centuries-old blood feuds between these tribes, and convincing them to understand we're all fighting the same enemy.”

He goes on to say,

"The mission was a diplomatic approach about working with the locals and spreading the word that we're fighting a common enemy, and that the Taliban and Al-Qaeda were the ones that were attempting to take over. I really liked being able to put a spotlight on that and separate this sort of terrorism and ideology with the rest of the country who do not agree with that, and who are under the same fear and threat to their freedom as Americans were feeling, as 9/11 made them feel.”

3. It’s another reminder of sacrificial combat.

The real foundation of this film lies in the relationships between the 12 men. From the first scene, we understand their loyalty to this country and each other as a unit. Throughout 12 Strong, the men are forced to make decisions of surreal sacrifice. Even the reality of the familial sacrifice is honored, as the film weaves in the wives points of view throughout the story.

This movie celebrates the brotherhood found through combat. In one instance, Nutsch tells the men that the only way to get a clear shot of the city is through a rocky ravine in supposedly fatal territory. Without being asked, the men begin to volunteer for the mission, demonstrating their absolute faith and devout loyalty to their mission.

Each act of sacrifice in 12 Strong serves as a reminder of the reality of combat. What these men and women go through, the strength and fearlessness it takes to fight for freedom truly is convicting. It begs the question of appreciation in the midst of an "offense" culture. That idea alone makes this movie worth seeing.

4. Did we mention mounted combat?

We don’t call them the “Horse Soldiers” for nothing.

Quite possibly one of the most unique elements of the 12 Strong story is the horse element. Because of the Afghani terrain, the only way to reach and overtake each city was on horseback. Logistically, this should have been an absolute nightmare in combat. These men were up against a severe lack of riding experience, armored assaults, tanks, heliborne inserts, just to name a few. This was unchartered territory for all involved.

Officials were unaware that Dostum's army still used a horse cavalry. In an interview with ABC News, Nutsch said that the movie actually leaves out a key river that the men often had to swim across in the freezing cold water with their horses, one of the bigger obstacles they faced on the mission. The horses in the film are only briefly discussed, but the realities of mounted combat were much more of a barrier than presented. Just another example of why this story is so unbelievable in the midst of modern warfare.

5. It’s the David and Goliath story we need right now.

12 Strong may not be the most successful war epic in history, but it IS a story America needs right now. As we mentioned before, we live in a culture of offense. Timelines have evolved from sub-par food photography or family updates to vicious political and social debate. The media is submerged in a tank of negativity, and for some reason, the antagonist has become America, itself. We are offended by America, offended by those who hate America, offended by those who support America, offended by those who aren’t from America, offended by those attempting to become American, and the list goes on.

The 12 Strong story is one of hope. In the midst of the political noise, this film reminds us that this country IS worth fighting for. It reminds us that 17 years ago, we were unified in that belief. We, as a country, were ready to fight, we were willing to stand for our nation, we supported America come hell or high water.

Green Berets were the first to take on the Taliban. These 12 men successfully navigated the dynamics within Northern Alliance. These 12 men came home. As Americans, it’s easy to lose sight of what we’ve been given. We are blessed with a good education, blessed with the right to vote. Our freedom gives us the right to disagree, and our freedom gives us the right to speak. We are free because of men like the “Horse Soldiers” who went beyond the call of duty and sacrificed to protect our Homeland. To watch this film clarifies a deep appreciation for this country that we are currently lacking, and THAT is why these movies are so important.

Each generation throughout our American history has blessed us with Patriots who would answer the call to be Defenders of all we hold dear. Real-life stories of heroism and courage that rarely ever make it to a Hollywood movie. Nonetheless, we are inspired by these brave men and women who unselfishly are willing to sacrifice it all. We salute those who boldly, fearlessly, and passionately step up to be Defenders of the Republic!

For more information on the 12 Strong story, check out Doug Stanton’s book “The Horse Soldiers.”

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