A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Some of the Taliban's worst aspects (like violent suppression of female education) are decried. Movie's tone is clearly patriotic, but complexities of war are also hinted at: the emotional cost of taking a life, even in war, and the possibly hopeless circumstances of American involvement in Afghanistan. That helps it rise above any tendencies to de-humanize the enemy. Themes include teamwork, compassion, and communication.
Positive Role Models
Soldiers are courageous and behave reasonably. They don't use slurs to describe enemies, and they show concern at times for individual Afghani people.
Violence & Scariness
Pervasive war violence, including dismembered body parts and gore. Disturbing, execution-style killing of a woman who's been severely beaten. Weapons include machine guns and rocket launchers.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Nothing shown, but there are a few references to sex (e.g., in one instance, a husband says to his wife, "Just the tip?").
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Language is frequent and includes variants of "f--k," "s--t," "hell," "ass," "goddamn," "bitch," and "Jesus Christ," as well as occasional sexual references.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Brief scene of an Afghani warlord drinking vodka. Cigarette smoking.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that 12 Strong may star Marvel hero Chris "Thor" Hemsworth, but it's not appropriate for the Avengers' younger fans. This is a violent war movie about U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan right after the 9/11 attacks. Expect some disturbing scenes -- such as the execution of a helpless woman who's been severely beaten -- as well as dismembered body parts and gore. There's also brief drinking and smoking, frequent strong language ("f--k," "s--t," and more), and a couple of sexual references. But it also offers themes of communication, compassion, and teamwork and looks beyond surface patriotism to the complexities of war, such as the emotional cost of taking a life. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
This is a solid war movie that manages to be patriotic while at least scratching the surface of the complexities of American involvement in Afghanistan. The filmmakers behind 12 Strong make a good effort to establish what these soldiers have at stake at home, but the movie's focus is on the action and their experience in country, rather than on characterization. Luckily, the movie has a fine cast, led by Hemsworth and the always-excellent Shannon and Peña; they do enough to make us buy who they are. And Rhodes has a touching side story with an Afghan boy. The action is well-staged, and the story moves along at a good clip. We're always generally aware of the objectives and the dangers.
It can be unsettling to watch stories "based on" real events, especially those involving war. In virtually any big-screen adaptation, events and characters must be compressed. But in war movies, people's lives and deaths are at issue. And in a story spurred by the 9/11 attacks, there's a particular danger of extreme patriotism and the devaluing of human life. Fortunately, 12 Strong avoids much of that peril by staying tightly focused on the unit's mission. It avoids painting the Americans as too saintly -- though you do have to wonder how the Afghans might feel about being painted as secondary in the battles, especially in the climactic one. And it avoids taking a condescending view of the Afghan people, while simultaneously depicting some of the horrors of the Taliban regime. The movie also hints at the likely overall futility of extended U.S. involvement, as when one Afghan essentially says, "You're our allies today; you're our enemies tomorrow." The incredible feat these particular soldiers helped accomplish is a tale that should be told, even if the movie version is more competent than truly absorbing. Still, the story is intriguing (modern American soldiers ride into battle on horseback against machine guns and rocket launchers), and the performances are strong. Just don't expect it to make a deeply lasting impression.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.