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Topics in History: History through Film

Topics in History: History through Film

Topics is a course at Southport High School taught by Kevin Sanders that analyzes major events from United States and world history through Hollywood films that attempt to portray those events. Students investigate historical documents and other sources to determine if a film is historically accurate.

The goal is for students to develop deeper understandings of the historical discipline while generating questions about the way the world is around them, along with watching classical films that have graced American and international screens.

Student: Zach Chambers

Film Reviewed: 12 Strong

12 Strong is a pretty good movie; it shows how the United States went after Al Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden right after 9/11. While at home Mark Nutsch wanted to take his team to defeat Al Qaeda, saying if we don’t defeat them, they will keep doing this to our country. Mark defeated four other captains for the job and then he and his team went off to fight Al Qaeda with allies from Afghanistan. But is this movie historically accurate?

One of the main accurate ideas in the movie was that they all used horses to get around the country. They were called the horse soldiers and so if they didn’t show this at all then it would not be accurate at all. They never thought that this would be the way they had to do this. “Nutsch had always been a history buff, and he had carefully studied Civil War cavalry charges and tactics, but he had never expected to ride horses into battle (Collins).” They had to use horses because cars would’ve been too loud, and the terrain was too hard to walk around in. A scene that makes you think it was a very tough ride was when they were getting ready to meet their alliances flying in the middle of the night in fog. In real life they noticed that it was really tuff for them, “and we hit a surprise sandstorm and heavy fog which created near-zero visibility conditions, and the armed escort aircraft had to turn back, and we flew alone through the mountains the remainder of that trip,” Capt. Mark said.

The battle was a huge win for the United States, especially after 9/11. Since the United States won, it helped get the Taliban out of Afghanistan. “The battle was the Taliban’s first major defeat and precipitated a rapid transfer of territory in northern Afghanistan.” Nutsch knew that he could lead a team to do everything that was needed to win the battle. Although he was just in an office for most of his time serving, he wanted his team back. “The team had been working together for two years and the average age was 32 years old.”

Cross cutting is a technique that goes from one scene to another. In the movie it cross cuts to a leader in the Taliban killing a teacher because she was educating girls over the age of 8. Finding that this actually happened really shocked me. “Taliban gunmen killed the headmaster of a girls’ school near the Afghan capital after he ignored warnings to stop teaching girls (Staff).” When getting ready to attack, Chris Hemsworth (who played Capt. Mitch Nelson) looked at a piece of the World Trade Center, and it made him think of what they did to the United States. Although they were carrying it with them it wasn’t really Mark Nutsch, the real captain, didn’t have it, though. “The ODA carried a piece of steel from the World Trade Center into Afghanistan. Pennington said some were thinking of payback as they flew into the country (Brooks).”

On the other hand there are some fake parts in the movie to make it more entertaining to watch. There are only two people in the movie from ODA 595 who use the real name as the same in real life.  Even though there are some fake parts in the movie, it’s historically accurate. From riding horses to fight the Taliban, to the biggest major defeat of the Taliban. The accurate parts outweigh the flaws.

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