12 Strong

Movie review by
Michael Ordona, Common Sense Media
12 Strong Movie Poster Image
Good cast in violent, patriotic, fact-based war movie.
  • R
  • 2018
  • 130 minutes
Parents recommend

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 10 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 4 reviews

We think this movie stands out for:

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

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 & Representations

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

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.

Sex

Nothing shown, but there are a few references to sex (e.g., in one instance, a husband says to his wife, "Just the tip?").

Language

Language is frequent and includes variants of "f--k," "s--t," "hell," "ass," "goddamn," "bitch," and "Jesus Christ," as well as occasional sexual references.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Brief scene of an Afghani warlord drinking vodka.

What 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 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.

User Reviews

Adult Written byJaylah N. January 18, 2018

Excellent movie, good for teens and up

It has some violence and swearing, but not as much as other war movies. Good movie with positive messages, fine for teens and up.
Parent Written byDonna W. March 3, 2018

Pleasantly Surprised

My son really wanted to see this movie (he is 10). I took him while preparing him that he may have to advert his eyes a few times. I was pleasantly surprised t... Continue reading
Teen, 16 years old Written bycoolteen January 15, 2018

Almost pg-13

Alright, so I was blessed to attend a special screening for 12 Strong, so here we go. I'm not going to give the plot or spoilers or anything cause any rese... Continue reading
Teen, 17 years old Written bypoptroiu2 January 25, 2018

What's the story?

In 12 STRONG, a Special Forces unit of 12 Americans (including soldiers played by Chris Hemsworth, Michael Shannon, Michael Peña, and Travante Rhodes of Moonlight) is sent to Afghanistan shortly after 9/11 to assist a Northern Alliance general (Naveed Negahban). The team's overarching objective is to help take a Taliban stronghold city. To do so, they must overcome initial distrust between them and the general and navigate difficult country in which horses are the most practical form of travel. The unit's adventure is based on the now-declassified true story of the "horse soldiers" who represented America's first military response to the 9/11 attacks. 

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.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the messages that war movies like 12 Strong send. Is this a patriotic film? Does it make war seem "cool"? Does it make it clear that human beings die -- and kill -- in war? 

  • How accurate do you think this fact-based movie is? How could you find out more? Would it bother you if important details were changed or left out? Why do you think filmmakers might sometimes choose to tweak the facts?

  • How did the movie's violent scenes make you feel? Were they more or less upsetting than what you might see in a superhero/fantasy action movie? Why? What's the impact of media violence on kids?

  • How does the movie show the importance of communication, compassion, and teamwork? Why are these important character strengths?

Movie details

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