12 Strong

Conventional war movies about our ongoing engagement in Afghanistan are rare, probably because so few stories from the conflict can be framed as victories. This one, which producer Jerry Bruckheimer adapted from Doug Stanton’s book Horse Soldiers, comes from the opening days of the war, just after the September 11 terror attacks, when U.S. special forces set out to recapture the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif from the Taliban. Strapping lad Chris Hemsworth stars as the captain of the unit, who has studied the Soviet debacle in Afghanistan and leads his men through the mountains on horseback; Michael Shannon is his stone-faced second-in-command, and the wisecracking grunts include Michael Peña and Trevante Rhodes. The action, combining 19th-century cavalry tactics with 21st-century air strikes, is inherently interesting, and Bruckheimer stages it well; unfortunately the movie’s central philosophical conflict, between the captain and an Afghan warlord, features dialogue like “Your mission will fail because you fear death.” Nicolai Fuglsig directed; with William Fichtner and Fahim Fazli.