- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Two movies based on true stories about the complexities of war debut on the Blu-ray format.

12 Strong (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, rated R, 130 minutes, 2.39:1 aspect ratio, $35.99) — A recent war drama chronicling America’s first strike against the organization responsible for the 9/11 attacks arrives next week on the high-definition format.

Directed by Nicolai Fuglsig, the story (based on author Doug Stanton’s nonfiction book) focuses on a team of a dozen, grizzled U.S. Special Forces dropped into Taliban-controlled Afghanistan five weeks after the Al Qaeda terrorists struck the World Trade Center in New York.

With help from a veteran Afghanistan general warlord, his small army, the power of B-52 airstrikes and sheer guts, the warriors, often attacking on horseback, helped liberate Afghanistan’s fourth-largest city, Mazar-i-Sharif, in roughly three weeks.

The machismo runs strong throughout the ensemble cast that includes Chris Hemsworth as Capt. Mitch Nelson (inspired by the real Mark Nutsch); Michael Shannon as Chief Warrant Officer Hal Spencer (inspired by the real Bob Pennington); and Navid Negahban as the real warlord, Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum.

Between the harrowing firefights and explosive bomb drops, viewers learn about the heroics of these “Horse” soldiers and the disgusting treatment of women by the Taliban, and then get to watch a near unimaginable cavalry charge against Soviet-made T-72 tanks.

The high-definition transfer does not really shine during the too-dark night scenes, but it looks crisp during the daylight desert scenes with some stunning views of mountains and some massive pyrotechnics featuring U.S. might.

Best extras: Viewers get only a pair of featurettes that cover the moviemaking and some of the real history that inspired “12 Strong.”

First, a production featurette offers 22 minutes with the cast and crew including a look at the actors in boot camp and some of the beautiful horses used in the scenes. More importantly, it features interviews with the real soldiers including Mr. Nutsch and Mr. Pennington as well as their commander Lt. Gen. John F. Mulholland Jr. discussing the mission.

Next, a 10-minute segment covers the building of America’s Response Memorial, a 16-foot-tall, 6,000-pound bronze sculpture of a soldier on horseback that resides in New York City’s Liberty Park.

Viewers get a behind-the-scenes look at building the art piece, led by interviews with sculptor Douwe Blumberg. He creates the statue with help from a three-dimensional printer, as he gets it ready for a nearly impossible deadline tied to the 2011 Veteran’s Day Parade.

The Post (20the Century Fox Home Entertainment, rated PG-13, 116 minutes, 1.85:1 aspect ratio, $34.99) — Director Steven Spielberg’s period drama, offering a snapshot of a local newspaper getting to play with the big boys, moves to the high-definition format to explore a major historic moment in American journalism.

Specifically, the film dives into The New York Times breaking the story of the infamous Pentagon Papers in the 1970s and how The Washington Post managed to get a piece of the reporting action.

This extensive report, sanctioned by Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, exposed the conspiracy of four presidents to mislead the public about the Vietnam War.

It’s equally a look at the leaders of The Post during that time; Kathryn Graham (Meryl Streep), the first female publisher of an American media company, and the camaraderie with her handpicked executive editor, Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks).

As always, Mr. Spielberg’s efforts, revealed in a welcomed full-screen presentation, are shot with meticulous detail covering nearly all angles of the story both visually and narratively.

We learn about the whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg going back to Vietnam, then-President Richard Nixon’s reactions to the events and the working machinations of a vintage newspaper newsroom.

Additionally, viewers will chomp on their nails watching the events that occurred when The Post got ahold of the Pentagon Papers, after The New York Times was court ordered to stop writing stories about the report.

Both Mr. Hanks and Miss Streep devour their roles, as one would expect, and get plenty of with help from an ensemble cast that includes Bob Odenkirk as reporter Ben Bagdikian, Matthew Rhys as Mr. Ellsberg, Bruce Greenwood as Mr. McNamara, Alison Brie as Graham’s daughter Lally and Michael Stuhlbarg as New York Times’ Executive Editor A. M. Rosenthal

Best extras: Viewers get almost 90-minutes worth of featurettes covering the production, loaded with words from the cast and crew.

Best of the bunch is a 22-minute segment about the film and its historic events that features interviews with some of the real folks involved, including reporter Sally Quinn; former Post Metro editor R.B. Brenner; and Mr. Ellsberg, who called America’s presence in Vietnam “unjustified homicide.”

Also dive into 25 minutes on the filming of “The Post” featuring Mr. Spielberg that covers the actors working on the set during the first day, creating the Vietnam War ambush scene in New York, and learning that all of the cast and crew were given a complimentary subscription to The Washington Post. Well, isn’t that special.

Viewers also get featurettes covering the characters (with nearly every actor interviewed); the recreation of a 1970s Washington, D.C., and The Post newsroom; and a look at the work of venerable composer John Williams who has worked with Mr. Spielberg for over four decades.

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