12 Strong–The Horse Soldiers Movie

Bayard & Holmes

~ Piper Bayard & Jay Holmes

Based on the best-selling book Horse Soldiers by Doug Stanton, 12 Strong is the true story of the first US Army Special Forces team to go into Afghanistan to hunt down Taliban and al-Qaeda after the 9/11 terrorist attack that brought down the Twin Towers.

 

 

In this dramatization, twelve Green Berets—Task Force Dagger—are ordered to team up with Uzbek warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum of the Northern Alliance in the mountains of Afghanistan to open the way through hostile, mountainous territory to Mazur-i-Sharif.

Once the team arrives and makes contact, they find they must proceed on horseback. Oh, yeah . . . And they only have three weeks to do it. Real life team leader Captain Mitch Nelson pretty well sums it up in his famous response to an impatient senior officer awaiting a report: “I am advising a man on how to best employ light infantry and horse cavalry in the attack against Taliban T-55s [tanks], mortars, artillery, personnel carriers and machine guns — a tactic which I think became outdated with the invention of the Gatling gun.”

A Jerry Bruckheimer production, 12 Strong was filmed in New Mexico in and around Albuquerque as well as in caves south of Alamogordo and on White Sands Missile Range. Chris Hemsworth does a great job as Capt. Mitch Nelson, and he’s backed up with excellent performances from Michael Peña, Trevante Rhodes, and Navid Negahban, who play Sam Diller, Ben Milo, and General Dostum, respectively. Both the armaments and the social challenges the team met with in the course of their mission are faithfully portrayed. And speaking of those armaments . . . bring earplugs. LOTS of explosions.

12 Strong is an excellent representation of what US Army Special Forces concentrate on and do best.

As the film accurately portrays, Task Force Dagger did a great job of quickly inserting into a hostile area, meeting up with indigenous forces, and gaining their trust enough to work together to influence the strategic situation in Afghanistan. Such missions are the bread and butter of the US Army Special Forces.

 

First Meeting with General Dostum
Scene from 12 Strong

 

We would only make one critique of the film’s portrayal of Task Force Dagger.

The movie shows these Green Berets being a bit out of their element with the primitive conditions they found in Afghanistan. In real life, US Army Special Forces are always careful to never, ever appear to be surprised by anything or challenged by any environment, whether that environment is geographic, climatic, cultural, or tactical domain. They will be careful to appear to be absolute masters of whatever domain they inhabit. In other words, they would smile and play poker with Satan and pretend to enjoy the warm weather if they found themselves on a mission in Hell.

Unlike many war movies, 12 Strong addresses the impact war has on the warriors’ families.

Families also suffer and sacrifice. According to Holmes, the hardest thing in the life of a warrior with a family is how their children pay a cost that was not of their choosing. It’s hard for them to wake up and find out that dad left at 3:00 a.m. Eventually, the kids figure out dad isn’t on a beach in Maui, and it leads to the unavoidable fact that families bleed, too, in their own way.

Attacking on Horseback
Scene from 12 Strong

 

As usual with any movie about military success or heroism on the battlefield, some reviewers who clearly have no experience whatsoever with any battle beyond fighting with their lovers for control of the remote dismiss this movie as “flag waving.” We completely disagree. 12 Strong does a great job of recounting the true story of a handful of brave men who got shit done.

While we would love to give 12 Strong our highest rating, a .44 Magnum*, for sentimental reasons, we must give it our second highest rating, a .357 Magnum.

That’s because even though it is a solid war movie with excellent production and acting, it is not particularly life-altering. That being said, it is, indeed, a solid war movie with excellent production and acting, and, therefore, worth seeing. We recommend this movie to those who are prepared for a realistic combat movie with one caveat—don’t take the kids. This is not a movie for children.

 

 

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Bayard & Holmes Movie Ratings

  • Dud Chinese-manufactured ammo: Stay home and do housework. You’ll have more fun.

  • .22 rim fire:  Not worth the big screen, but ok to rent.

  • .380: Go to the matinee if someone else is paying.

  • .38 Special: Worth paying for the matinee yourself.

  • .357 Magnum: Okay to upgrade to prime time if you can stand the crowd.

  • .44 Magnum: Must see this. Life-altering event.

 

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Piper Bayard is a recovering attorney and an author of espionage nonfiction and international spy thrillers. Jay Holmes is a veteran field operative and a senior member of the intelligence community. Together, Bayard & Holmes are the bestselling authors of THE SPY BRIDE.

Look for their upcoming release, SPYCRAFT: Essentials for Writers, due out this spring.

 

To follow Bayard & Holmes, sign up for the Bayard & Holmes Covert Briefing, or find them at their site, Bayard & Holmes. You may contact them in blog comments at their site, on Twitter at @piperbayard, on Facebook at Bayard & Holmes, or by email at BH@bayardandholmes.com.

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Spy Truth & Fiction — The Equalizer Gets Some Things Right

By Piper Bayard

The Equalizer is a thriller film by Antoine Fuqua in which an ex-CIA operative must defeat the Russian mob to save his friend. Denzel Washington plays Robert McCall, a widower who has left his former life of intelligence fieldwork. He keeps a simple life as a supervisor at Home Mart in Boston. Each night, his insomnia drives him to a corner diner with a classic book, where he chats with Alina (Chloë Grace Moretz), a young prostitute who is pimped out by the Russian mob. When Alina is brutally beaten and hospitalized by the Russians, McCall determines he will prevent her keepers from ever hurting her again. His decision triggers a series of events that lead to Moscow and to one of Russia’s most powerful oligarchs.

 

The Equalizer Movie Poster

The Equalizer Movie Poster

 

Though this movie is not intended to be a documentary, it gets several Truth & Fiction aspects right.

One: Robert McCall is a former CIA operative.

Intelligence operatives get to resign or retire if they want to. There is a grand myth in some spy fiction that intelligence organizations are like the mafia—that once you’re in, there’s only one way to leave, as in to die. Unlike James Bond, who will outlive all other intelligence operatives on the planet, CIA operatives, active or past, actually do eventually all die of the same causes that afflict the rest of the human population. However, the Company does not put out a hit on operatives who decides to strike out in other directions, regardless of how many secrets they may know.

Two: Robert McCall is a man who wears jeans and plain button up shirts.

While some former intelligence operatives might wear leather clothing and ride motorcycles, it is not required. In fact, most people who are confident that they can kill you with their pinkies prefer to appear as innocuous as possible. Life is just more comfortable for everyone that way.

 

Robert McCall, a.k.a. The Equalizer Image from The Equalizer

Robert McCall, a.k.a. The Equalizer
Image from The Equalizer

 

Three: Robert McCall works as a supervisor at “Home Mart.”

Except for congressmen, no one gets rich by working for the government. That includes intelligence operatives. As a result, when they leave, most of them must find other gainful employment, and that might be anything from selling used cars to teaching high school to assisting people with their lumber purchases at a home improvement store.

Four: Robert McCall does not rely entirely on firearms to kill the bad guys.

One of the best parts of this movie is the creative way McCall kills off his opponents. A large showdown takes place inside a home improvement center. While our hero unrealistically passes on the obvious opportunity to pick up a few heavy firearms from the skumbags he kills, his creativity in killing with common store items is worth the price of admission. Through the entire movie, he lays out approximately two dozen bad guys, but he only shoots one of them with a firearm.

 

Robert McCall and Alina Image from The Equalizer

Robert McCall and Alina
Image from The Equalizer

 

Five:  Robert McCall is in control.

Operatives certainly have their bad days, and sometimes they end up in situations that are beyond their control. But, as Holmes says, “If you’re in a fair fight, you’re using poor tactics.” In every situation, our hero in The Equalizer has the upper hand.

It’s worth noting that this control is actually a negative when it comes to sustaining tension. At no time is the viewer genuinely worried that McCall won’t survive an encounter in order to collect his paycheck and do another movie. However, he is so creative in how he maintains control that this doesn’t sink the film.

Six:  Robert McCall dedicates himself to his chosen mission simply because he believes it is the right thing to do.

As a general rule, American intelligence operatives are an idealistic lot who devote themselves to their professions because they want to make the world a better place for innocent people to reside. No one does it for the money.

 

Robert McCall, a.k.a. The Equalizer Image from The Equalizer

Robert McCall, a.k.a. The Equalizer
Image from The Equalizer

 

 Seven:  The evil kingpin behaves like an evil kingpin when cornered.

The Russian mobster at the top of the international crime food chain is aptly named Vladimir Pushkin. (All similarities to any living Russian oligarch are, no doubt, purely coincidental.) We see very little of Putin Pushkin, but where we do see him, he is behaving realistically, exhibiting disbelief that anyone would actually kill him, combined with the confidence that he can buy his way out of the situation.

 

Overall, The Equalizer is a thoroughly enjoyable movie that impressed me with its creativity. Denzel Washington is excellent in his role as the man people turn to when they have nowhere else to go. Chloë Grace Moretz does a great job breaking out of her Kick Ass role to show a bit more diversity. And of course, who doesn’t want to see a Russian mobster named Vladimir Pushkin get what’s coming to him? If you enjoy thrillers and justice movies, you will likely enjoy this one.

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We are pleased to announce that our first Bayard & Holmes spy thriller novella, THE SPY BRIDE, will be released in the RISKY BRIDES bestsellers’ collection on October 21 from Magnolia Press.

The Spy Bride Risky Brides Front Cover via Hightail

Breaking Badly

By Piper Bayard & Jay Holmes

Breaking Bad—five seasons of weekly opportunities for the average, law-abiding citizen to ride in the fast lane with chemistry teacher/family man/meth dealer Walter White has finally come to an end. The Albuquerque Journal even ran Walter White’s obituary, and Vernon’s Hidden Valley Steakhouse is giving Walter White a funeral in Albuquerque this Saturday, October 19.

Breaking Bad

As Holmes and I look around, we find that we are surrounded by Breaking Bad fans in various stages of the Kubler-Ross grief process . . .

Denial – No. This can’t be happening . . . Oh, wait! I can still watch the first 54 episodes on Netflix. Maybe the movie will be out by the time I’m finished.

Anger – What do you mean there’s no more Breaking Bad? How can they do this to me? *gives collection of Walter White action figures and Breaking Bad Chemistry Set to neighbor and says never wants to see them again*

Bargaining – Let’s kidnap Vince Gilligan like in Misery and tell him he can’t have his freedom until he comes up with five more seasons. *slips in through neighbor’s window to steal back action figures and chemistry set; finds out neighbor sold them to buy weed.*

Depression – Dear God, why live? *curls up in fetal position around TV remote*

Acceptance – It’s real. It’s happening. Breaking Bad is over. I must find healthy ways to fill the void and move on. *pays $2,000 to have name engraved on Walter White’s memorial tombstone at Vernon’s Hidden Valley Steakhouse*

Fear not, Breaking Bad fans! Here at Bayard & Holmes, we see your suffering, and we stand ready to help. We have the following suggestions to assist you moving beyond Walter White’s world to begin to live again:

  • Buy our books and obsess over them, instead.
  • Develop a taste for brandy.
  • Set up a telescope in your window and get to know your neighbors.
image from Rear Window

image from Rear Window

  • Stop playing with your household chemicals and donate your gas mask to a local Alcohol Recovery Center thrift store.
  • List all of the blue items you see in your house that have nothing to do with meth.
  • Use Google and find out who the real Heisenberg was.
  • Buy out the Funyons from your local grocery store and throw a party for your friends.
  • Attempt to technically define the word “yo.”

For those of you who simply aren’t ready for closure, for the mere sum of $1999—a real deal next to that tombstone engraving—you can secure your seat on the Breaking Bad Albuquerque Meth Tour.* Enjoy three days of sightseeing while being escorted by hardened ex-cons and “criminal” attorneys through the seediest corners of Albuquerque. Tour activities will include Nerf gun combat in the New Mexico desert and stops in chicken restaurants and law enforcement outposts where people really are selling meth out of the back room. To complete our tour, vacationers will receive one free trip to the University of New Mexico Hospital emergency room where they can see and talk to actual meth heads in their natural migratory habitat while waiting for treatment.

Call now and be one of our first ten customers, who will each receive an autographed photo from a random local high school chemistry professor. Let Bayard & Holmes give you the assistance you need to break out of your fast lane fantasies. Operators standing by.

*Airfare, accommodations, meals, and transportation not included in price of package; however, each vacationer will receive one complimentary piece of fake meth candy made of sugar on a stick and the number to the Drug Abuse Hotline in the state of their choosing.

Where are you at in your Breaking Bad grief cycle?