“12 Strong: The Declassified True Story of the Horse Soldiers”: if we knew enough to pull this off, why didn’t we stop 9/11?

12 Strong: The Declassified True Story of the Horse Soldiers”, based on the book “Horse Soldiers” by Doug Stanton, directed by Nicolai Fuglsig and produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, is a large historical war film, available in Imax, about the initial American intervention in Afghanistan right after 9/11.

The covert operation in eastern Afghanistan comprised some CIA operatives but mainly US Army Special Forces, Green Berets, Operational Detachment 595.   It achieved a major victory against Al Qaeda in about three weeks, helping buttress the Northern Alliance, which Sebastian Junger’s subsequent books, articles and films would cover. The lead is Captain Mitch Nelson, played by Chris Hemsworth, with the laconic Michael Shannon playing CWO Cal Spencer.  The main NO ally is Gen/ Abdul Rashid Dostum, played by Navid Negahban.

The film starts with the history trail of terror attacks, going back to the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center, followed by Kenya in 1998, the USS Cole in 2000, and then 9/11.  The film shows 9/11 as seen from a special forces base in Kentucky (I thought it would have been Fort Bragg, NC).  We see it only after both towers and the Pentagon have been hit. During the morning hours, many observers expected over 10,000 civilian dead in NYC.

The politics of the engagement seem to be the point of the film.  All this happened before Bush addressed the nation on a Sunday afternoon in early October 2001. Dostum makes the point that once the Americans are there, they will be perceived as cowards if they leave, or enemies if they stay. Nelson has to deal with the reality of playing one warlord against another, when some warlords were more concerned about their competitors than they were about the Taliban, with its fanatical religious fundamentalism. Nelson, before the final battle scene, makes the point that the special op (at the time SCI Top Secret) is necessary to prevent more 9/11’s on the homeland.  Yet if the Bush administration knew enough to put together this operation so quickly, why couldn’t it prevent 9/11?

The film was shot on location in New Mexico, apparently just north of Albuquerque.  I visited the area, specifically the Lama Foundation north of Taos, in 1980 and 1984.

The film is a 2018 release, and apparently is not part of the 2017 awards season.

I still remember that in 1958, in ninth grade, when we studied the middle east in geography, I chose Afghanistan for my report.  How prescient.

Northern Alliance Picture, December 2001, Wiki.

Name:  “12 Strong: The Declassified True Story of the Horse Soldiers”
Director, writer:  Nicolai Fuglsig, Doug Stanton
Released:  2018/1/19
Format:  2.35:1 IMAX
When and how viewed:  Regal Potomac Yards. 2018/1/25, fair mid afternoon audience for a weekday
Length:  129
Rating:  R
Companies:  Warner Brothers, Black Label Media, Jerry Bruckheimer Films
Link:  official

(Posted: Thursday, January 25, 2018 at 9:15 PM EST)

“Thor: Ragnarok”: well, imagine a civilization built from landfill trash, among other things

I’m not an aficionado of comic plots or of Thor particularly, but it seems like “Thor: Ragnarok” (directed by Taiki Waititi) gives us a tour of the inhabited universe, where space travel takes us to ancient-like worlds of 50s Fox Ciinemascope spectacles (the film is from Marvel and Disney).  The director himself will play the voice of the fiery giant Korg at the end.

The Asgardian civilization resides on a planet I’ve seen before, with a huge spectacular harbor and a long “boardwalk” out into the sea for the spaceport.   I want a room in a Wyndam hotel with a harbor view.  Sorry, the spire palace will be destroyed.

From a distance, the planet looks like an annulus, so the physics of it isn’t very probable. The planet seems tied closely to another planet where the entire civilization (even the big cities) is built from landfill  trash and toy parts.

The film is a vehicle for a lot of big stars. The centerpiece, not necessary deserving, is Chris Hemsworth as Thor.   He’s all fit for a centerpiece gladiator battle in an amphitheater that could come from Rome (“Demetrius and the Gladiators“) or maybe from “Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome”. That battle is with a new enemy, the Hulk (Bruce Banner) who in his other life is played by an aging Mark Ruffalo. But the arch enemy is the empress Hela (Cate Blanchett) who wants her fill of executioners.

There’s one scene, two-thirds the way through, where the maidenhead women prep Thor for his final battles by prodding his chest with hot irons to remove any hint of chest hair.  Such indignities for a man who will never be a 40-year-old virgin. But does he need to become a clone of Victor Mature?

The giant wolf appears on the boardwalk, without the loving care of Loki (Tom Hiddleston).

The movie is also grounded with some scenes in the Big Apple, like an earlier scene at a Bleeker Street bistro set up to look like La Poisson Rouge (one of my favorite haunts) and where Benedict Cumberbatch plays Dr. Strange, approprirately geeky and a seeming caricature of pianist-composer Timo Andres.  The people who made this movie have watched a lot of young stars rise.  The actual music score is by Mark Mothersbaugh and doesn’t seem that remarkable.

There is a piece by Ashkey Nkadi in The Root, shared on Facebook, “Why is society intent on erasing black people in fantasy and Sci-Fi’s imaginary worlds?” and she discusses the tokenizing of Idris Elba as Heimdall.  I’m not sure she accurately characterizes what goes on in comics or fantasy movies, but I need to be mindful of this in my own future writing.

Wiki of Yggdrasil and the nine worlds of Asgard .

Typical rocky extrasolar planet (wiki).

Name:  “Thor: Ragnarok
Director, writer:  Taiki Waititi
Released:  2017/11/3
Format:  2.35:1 Imax 3-D
When and how viewed:  2017/11/8 Regal  Ballston Quarter daytime small audience
Length:  130
Rating:  PG-13
Companies:  Marvel Studios, Walt Disney Studios
Link:  official 

(Posted: Thursday, Nov. 9, 2017 at 2:30 PM EDT)