The story of the Horse Soldiers, a group of twelve Special Forces soldiers who were sent into Afghanistan in the weeks following the 9/11 attacks to lay the groundwork for the Taliban's downfall, forced to ride horses against tanks and rockets, is an extraordinary tale of heroism against inconceivable odds and a proud moment in the history of our armed forces.
While this film tries, and mostly succeeds in retelling these events, there's just something off in the way the whole thing is packaged.
First off, there's the characters, mainly the three big names: Chris Hemsworth as Captain Mitch Nelson, Michael Shannon as Chief Warrant Officer Cal Spenser, and Michael Peña as Sergeant First Class Sam Diller. Their motivations and development is done only to the bare minimum, with Hemsworth being the only one with a true character arc. Of the other nine soldiers in the team, only three or four actually get their names spoken more than a couple of times throughout the film.
The main supporting character is Navid Negahban as Afghan General Dostum, who provides most of the character drive for Hemsworth's Nelson to change. He has a couple of powerful moments, but he is sopposed to be portraying one of three Afghan commanders who are fighting the Taliban, but also would fight each other if the chance arose. This conflict is only brought up in passing, though it is built up multiple times.
Then there's the main reason the story of the Horse Soldiers is so extraordinary: the fact that these twelve soldiers and a few hundred Afghan tribal warriors had to face fifty thousand Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters, facing off tanks and artillery on horseback.
The battle scenes are well shot, with only a handful of scenes with excessive cuts. The final horse charge is especially well done and feels earned. However, they don't seem to convey these overwhelming odds as well as they could.
With all of this being said, this film leaves me with the same feeling that World Trade Center (2006) did. Both of these films portray events and people under extraordinary circumstances accurately, more or less, but it just feels like those involved in both films were just going through the motions, trying to replicate feelings around events that may never be able to be truly replicated.
All in all, 12 Strong is a thoroughly average depiction of extraordinary events, not bad but not great. You're probably better off reading the book on which this film is based.