Just because something can be watched on Netflix doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good. Most of the time the opposite is true, and that seems to be the case with the Top 10 list’s latest inductee:12 Strong, a movie starring Chris Hemsworth with a 50% Rotten Tomatoes score.
The movie has rolled into the number 4 slot of Netflix’s top 10 movies list, where it joins the likes of Sing 2, the newly-released The Sea Beast, the 2004 classic Mean Girls and grand finale of the Dark Knight Trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises.
What is 12 Strong about?
12 Strong is adapted from the 2009 non-fiction book Horse Soldiers, written by Doug Stanton. The movie is set in the weeks following the 9/11 attacks and follows the U.S. Army Captain Mitch Nelson (Chris Hemsworth).
Originally set to move into a staff job, Nelson volunteers to lead ODA 595 into Afghanistan to ally with Uzbek warlord General Dostum (Navid Negahban) to fight both the Taliban and Al-Qaeda.
Nelson is joined by Chief Warrant Officer Hal Spencer (Michael Shannon), Intelligence Sergeant Sam Diller (Michael Peña), Sergeant Ben Mil (Trevante Rhodes) and the rest of ODA 595 for the duration of the movie.
But it soon becomes clear that the Afghan terrain is brutally unforgiving, and the squad is going to have to complete their mission on horseback. What’s more, the oncoming winter cold means they have just three weeks to get the job done.
What do the critics think of 12 Strong?
Movie critics are a pretty unforgiving lot, and 12 Strong has ended up with a 50% score on Rotten Tomatoes (opens in new tab) — based on 173 reviews. Audiences were a little more lenient, with a 62% score based on over 5,000 ratings. IMDB (opens in new tab) currently displays a score of 6.5 out of 10, based on over 79,000 ratings.
The critics’ consensus on Rotten Tomatoes is that “12 Strong has a solid cast, honorable intentions, and a thrilling, fact-based story - all of which are occasionally enough to balance a disappointing lack of depth or nuance.” The general feel is that the casting and action sequences are strong, but the general execution is nothing special and the movie fails to acknowledge the larger ramifications of the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan.
The Guardian’s (opens in new tab) Peter Bradshaw notes that 12 Strong is “all very easy: a feelgood war tale from what feels like a distant age,” giving it 2 stars out of five. David Edelstein from Vulture (opens in new tab) said that the movie’s “story is unconventional, and the film-produced by uber-slickster Jerry Bruckheimer-has been shaped along conventional war-movie lines.”
Mike LaSalle at the San Francisco Chronicle (opens in new tab) was a little more scathing with a 2/4 score. “It might be enough that '12 Strong' makes you feel good that the United States still produces guys like this. Too bad we didn't get to know about the real guys and their actual story.”
Some critics did have positive things to say, even if the movie has its flaws. Jimi Famurewa, from Empire (opens in new tab), gave 12 Strong 3 stars out of five, noting that it’s “An effective - if overly simplistic - neo-Western that's eventually carried over the line by a sparky ensemble cast. Likewise Christy Lemire from RogerEbert.com (opens in new tab) noted the movie is “solid from a technical perspective. Where the film could have used more power is in its narrative momentum “ — with a score of 2.5 out of four.
Outlook: Should you watch 12 Strong?
If you’re a fan of big, loud war movies where the United States is portrayed as the righteous good guys, then 12 Strong is well worth checking out. Of course if you’re not into that sort of thing, then this is absolutely the movie to avoid. Especially if you have strong feelings about what’s happened in Afghanistan since the last American forces pulled out.
It all depends on your personal tastes and what kind of movies you enjoy. If you’re still a little unsure, there’s only one way to find out — head to Netflix. 12 Strong is only two hours and 10 minutes long, and if you don’t like what you see there’s always the option to turn it off and stream one of the best Netflix shows or best Netflix movies.