The film opens on September 11, 2001 and subjects us, yet again, to those awful images seared into the minds of anyone alive on that sidereal day. What most of us did n’t know, was that about a calendar month late, a team of U.S. Army Special Forces ( the Green Berets ) were being dropped into the roughly and by and large unfriendly terrain of Afghanistan. This laughably brave team of 12 men had one mission : plug Mazar-i-Sharif to prevent a takeover by the Taliban.
An early scene tells us this wo n’t be the usual blind patriotism we often see on screen. One of the soldiers, Hal Spencer ( Michael Shannon ), is told ( with a morsel of anger ) by his wife, “ I ‘ll love you when you get back. ” This contrasts to the common loyal and stiff-upper-lip military wife we see in most war movies. Another wife scrubs the oven quite than cuddle with her man, while yet another coerces a taboo toast to come home to her.
Chris Hemsworth ( THOR ) plays Captain Mitch Nelson, the intelligent but not-yet-battle-tested leader of a special ops team. The plan is for Nelson and his team to connect with General Dostum, an Afghan War Lord in charge of the Northern Alliance, and fight together to gain control of Mazar. After arriving at a local outpost nicknamed “ The Alamo ” ( 34 miles from town ), the team gets their first surprise … they must split up and cover the ground on horseback. Filmed in New Mexico, the travel is miserable and filled with danger – an ambush could occur at any consequence, or possibly they are being set-up by those they have been ordered to trust.
Horseback ride, caves, the weather, and the elements of the terrain are all challenges, but none of it compares to facing the Taliban forces which count in the thousands, and feature tanks, rocket launchers and an dateless issue of weaponry. Director Fuglsig utilizes a “ Days in Country ” counter so that we can get some likeness of meter and ongoing misery being fought through by the Americans. But no day is normal when the soldiers are on horseback while being attacked by tanks. The odds seem insurmountable.
One of the more capture aspects of the history and welcome approaches of the movie is back-and-forth between Captain Nelson and General Dostum. Initially, Dostum shows short respect by telling the youthful officer that he lacks “ the eyes of a killer ” and is n’t yet a warrior, and he spends a bang-up deal of prison term lecture and philosophizing on Nelson ‘s behalf. Of class, the lessons may be frustrating in the here and now, but are n’t lost on Nelson as there is a huge return at the peak of the key battle.
The struggle scenes come in all sizes – minor skirmishes and massive, big scale assaults. Each is intense and dramatic and well-staged, though there are some moments where we shake our head in incredulity. At least we do until we remember that this is a true narrative, and despite that, it is truly incredible. The supporting roll includes Michael Pena and his dapper punchlines, Trevante Rhodes ( MOONLIGHT ), William Fichtner with a shave head, Elsa Pataky – Hemsworth ‘s real life wife as his screen wife, Taylor Sheridan, Geoff Stults and Jack Kesy. Rob Riggle plays Colonel Max Bowers, who was Riggle ‘s commanding officer when he served in the Marines. The previously mentioned Michael Shannon is a piece underutilized, but the film ‘s best moments are those with Hemsworth and Navid Negahban ( as General Dostum ). You likely recognize Negahban as Abu Nazir from “ Homeland ”. It ‘s their exchanges that show how the tune between allies and enemies is not always crystal clear – evening if they are fighting for the same thing.
Writers Peter Craig ( THE TOWN ) and Ted Tally ( Oscar winner for THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS ) do a nice job of character growth, and the chumminess of the 12 men of ODA 595 seems authentic – despite some bathetic moments over their 23 days of Task Force Dagger. Early on, we are informed that the most important thing to take to war is “ a reason why ”, and then towards the end, Dostum explains that the United States is in a no-win situation : we are cowards if we go, and enemies if we stay. It ‘s chilling comment on a war that has dragged on a lot besides long … despite the heroic efforts of the 12 cavalry soldiers.