Travel and accommodations were provided by Warner Bros. Pictures.
In theaters January 19, 2018
The alarm went off. My bleary eyes slowly focused on the time. 3:45am. Uffda! There were few things that would get me up before the sun: my crying baby, saying yet another see-ya-later to my beloved infantryman before a duty-required departure, or in this case, an opportunity to screen the new Warner Bros. movie, 12 Strong, in Hollywood, California.
I quickly slid out of bed and threw on the clothes I set out the night before. As quietly as I could, I shoved the rest of my belongings in the suitcase, trying not to wake my infant, preschooler, and husband sleeping nearby. Holiday block leave for this Army wife was officially over. I was off to the Sioux Falls Regional Airport bound for Beverly Hills.
Several hours later, we taxied into the gate at LAX. As the pilot turned off the seatbelt sign, I read the final sentence in Doug Stanton’s book, 12 Strong, previously published as Horse Soldiers. I had read the book and watched the trailer. I was ready.
Before I knew it, I was standing in front of the London West Hollywood Hotel. “This ain’t no Motel 6,” I chuckled to myself. After settling into my room, it was time to get to work. My goal: learn as much as I could about this legendary declassified true story of the Horse Soldiers now in cinematic format and represent Army Wife Network with the utmost integrity.
Later that evening, a small group of bloggers gathered in the lounge area downstairs. As we dined on delicious appetizers, it didn’t take long to realize that bloggers from around the country had gathered for this event. We represented a variety of niches: military spouses, foodies, mom bloggers, money-savers, you name it– across the board, we were here to see the 12 Strong action up close and personal.
After pausing for a photo op with the 12 Strong movie poster, we filed into the hotel’s screening room. I walked into the mini-movie theater, settled into my seat, and silenced my phone. Would the movie match the quality of the book?
Answer: Yes, it did! When the movie concluded, I walked back to my room on the fourth floor and couldn’t help but smile as my head hit the pillow. We were off to a great start and I was excited for what the next day would hold.
Saturday morning, we gathered in the press suite and prepared for the press conference. As the lights in the screening room dimmed once again, the air buzzed with excitement. One by one, the press conference participants were introduced (seated left to right in the image below): Navid Negahban (Actor, “General Dostum”), Geoff Stultz (Actor, “Sean Coffers”), Thad Luckinbill (Producer and actor, “Vern Michaels”), Molly Smith (Producer), Chris Hemsworth (Actor, “Captain Mitch Nelson”), Jerry Bruckheimer (Producer), Trevante Rhodes (Actor, “Ben Milo”), Nicolai Fuglsig (Director) and Doug Stanton (Author, Horse Soldiers).
I could give you a play-by-play of the 30-minute press conference experience, but I think the thoughts shared by cast and crew supplies an accurate portrayal of the 12 Strong filming process.
“I think the difference between a warrior and a soldier is warriors lead with their heart, soldiers lead with their mind.” —Trevante Rhodes, “Ben Milo”
“There is an expression that says ‘You can see the truth when you are blind and you can hear the truth when you are deaf.’ So if you put all the differences aside and look at the person as who the person is, then you will see how similar we are, and then you will discover our similarities, not our differences, and that’s what the world is about.” —Navid Negahban, “General Dostum”
“There’s so many elements into this story, but I think something that we’ve seen people respond to when they’ve screened the film is the sacrifice. There’s a line in the movie I love so much where Michael Shannon says, ‘How do you love your family and leave them to go to war?’ I think that’s such a poetic, beautiful line, because people do this every day, and they make sacrifices for their country, the camaraderie, the love, it’s their duty, and I think we really tried to capture the spirit of the military, all branches of the military, and soldiers in general.” —Molly Smith, Producer
“I think that these men don’t see themselves as heroes. They’re just doing their jobs. That’s what
they’re trained to do. They do it because they love their country, they love their families, they are professionals, they’re highly trained, they’re highly intelligent and they’re deadly.”
—Jerry Bruckheimer, Producer
“It’s an homage to the human spirit, you know? I mean, both on the Afghan and American side, all these heroes were just ordinary people, and it could be a friend, your neighbor, and under extreme circumstances, they all rose to the extraordinary.” —Nicolai Fuglsig, Director
“…To walk away from this movie is to also be aware of your own communities and what’s going on and the sacrifices these people are making. I think these guys succeeded because they weren’t afraid to fail…” —Doug Stanton, Author “Horse Soldiers”
At the conclusion of the press conference, I was honored to get a few minutes of one-on-one time with book author, Doug Stanton and Director Nicolai Fuglsig. Both had powerful words of encouragement for military service members and their families, which we will share on future episodes of Army Wife Talk Radio.
The last “official” event of the press junket was one that our small group of bloggers was likely most excited about: an intimate roundtable interview with actor and star of 12 Strong, Chris Hemsworth. As we neared the end of our time together during the roundtable conversation, I asked Mr. Hemsworth what message of encouragement he had for our military families.
Mr. Hemsworth replied, “I think the same as just about everyone, which is thank you. Thank you, thank you for what you guys do and the commitment that we can live our life in peace and enjoy the freedom that many people don’t get that we are fortunate enough to receive due to all of you guys and all the military. So yes. Thank you.”
After taking a selfie with Mr. Hemsworth (yes, that happened!), I began reflecting on the entire experience. As the wife of an infantryman, I would most certainly watch 12 Strong again and am planning on doing so with my husband when it is released in theaters on January 19th. This in and of itself says a lot, since “war movies” aren’t typically my choice genre. I say read the book and watch the movie, because this is a story that everyone needs to hear.
The next afternoon as I deplaned in Atlanta and headed toward the train station, I was still “reeling” (pun intended) from the 12 Strong Hollywood experience. The theme of the weekend from the cast and crew echoed through my mind: Thank you. Thank you to all of the military service members who sacrifice so much. Thank you to the families who support them at home and abroad. Thank you to Doug Stanton for pouring incredible amounts of research into writing the book to tell this powerful story. Thank you to the cast and crew for their intentionality about portraying his historical account accurately. Thank you to Warner Bros. Pictures for bringing this must-see story to the big screen.
As the train pulled into the station, I ran into the arms of my awaiting infantryman. He scooped me up in a hug and asked me how it went. I responded to my soldier with only a whisper: “Thank you.”
Want to learn more? Visit the 12 Strong Movie Official Website, like 12 Strong on Facebook or follow on Twitter and Instagram using the hashtag #12StrongMovie. We hope to see you in line at the movies on January 19th when “12 Strong” hits theaters!
12 Strong is Rated R for war violence and language throughout.