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|Index||36 reviews in total|
Sure, it is difficult and will be difficult for all those who have seen
Sidney Lumet's Twelve angry men to avoid recalling part of that
wonderful movie where, like in this, we move between great characters
and excellent actors to investigate about the meaning of personal
involvement in the life of a community.
However, apart from the similar elements that we'll find, this movie achieves, as only a few films have done, to investigate the mechanisms of the current Russian society from the inside. Michalkov is greatly helped in this task not only by an excellent scenario and direction but also by a cast of actors that achieves perfection (including himself as the president of the jury).
The picture of the Russia of today is not optimistic (I would be tempted to say that rarely this has been the case in Russian history), and what appears clear is the capacity of the Russian people, that also emerge from the Russian literature and opera, to struggle and survive in the middle of chaos and brutality. If there is hope, it is in the tenacity of the individuals to be committed to fight...but when will this fight come to a (positive) end?
This is a masterpiece. The beauty of the film is in its simplicity.
Almost the whole thing takes place in a high school gymnasium, around a
long table around which the twelve jurors sit. Every performance is
superb, including that of the director, who plays the foreman, and
Sergei Garmash as the cab driver juror. The screenplay follows the
tortuous deliberations, in which every juror has at least one
soliloquy. Excellent camera-work and lighting augment the heavy drama.
It is more likely in Russia today that twelve whites would end up forming a jury, although less so that no women would be serving. Director Nikita Mikhalkov evidently chose to remain faithful that much to the American movie on which his is based, Twelve Angry Men. One wonders whether it might have been more interesting with women jurors contributing their anguish to the picture, and since this version is simply titled 12, the possibility of including a woman or two (as would be realistic in this day and age) was presumably open. Also, the film is not realistic in the sense that Russia does not have a jury system, therefore this situation would not arise in real life. What Mikhalkov was probably trying to do was to create a morality play, and this he does magnificently. These criticisms are therefore minor. This is a wonderful piece of work.
As the film is starting, for those who know Russian, one sees the logo of "Patriotic Films." This may cause groans among those who know more about Russia. Patriotic Russians today seem reactionary and defensive to many Westerners. But Mikhalkov does not dance around the sensitive race issue at the core of the plot, a Chechen boy accused of murdering his stepfather, a Russian military officer, and facing life in prison. Mikhalkov's main interest really is in truth, justice and honesty. The idea of these qualities as components of "patriotism" actually lies at the core of this story, and it is brilliantly executed. By the end, if you can suppress cynicism and believe that this many men of conscience could assemble in one place in Russia today, you will be moved to tears. This is a major achievement.
This movie again proves that Mr. Mikhalkov is Genius and Russia should
be proud of such man like him. This movie is truly a masterpiece
because of great acting, interesting story, and beautiful conversation
scenes. I recommend such movie for a viewer, who is tired from popular
Hollywood big-budget films (i'm not saying they are bad) and wants to
try something new, unexpected but enjoyable. If you are intelligent,
you will like this film and you will be amazed of how professionally it
is made and at the end of a movie you surely won't be thinking "why i
spent almost two and a half hours of my life watching this?".
So, i recommend not to be scared of the length and 20 minutes of boredom at the beginning and watch this Masterpiece in every detail.
A remake of a famous praised film is always a high-risk project, because a director takes risks to lapse into blind imitation. Fortunately Mikhalkov has enough talent and experience to rethink "12 Angry Men" by Sidney Lumet, to pass it through his own identity and produce an absolutely new and fresh film. This thought-provoking film surpassed all my expectations. Though it is a remake of an American movie, its plot is rooted in Russian reality. It reflects a lot of society's ills and nation's fears. I was deeply moved and fully satisfied with totally naturalistic dialogues. To my mind all-star cast played with miraculous virtuosity. The characters are true to life and I am sure that any Russian will be able to recognize himself in one of these 12 men. "12" is a stunning and intense drama with a large pool of talented actors, which leaves a lasting impression with you.
Some of the IMDb commenters are a bit tough on this film for having
some characters that verged on caricature. I see their point, but I
think it is a bit unfair here. Given that this was an homage to the
original (on its 50th anniversary), Mikhalkov had to take its basic
plot as his foundation. That necessarily drained much of the drama from
the story-we know which way the countdown is going to proceed. It also
forced him to deal with all 12 men.
Thus, what can he do to keep it interesting? He (1) features the ensemble acting-terrific even to me as a non-Russian speaker, (2) highlighted the characters' weaknesses, including some human and Russian traits that have to be a bit outsized, (3) added a detached but affecting commentary on brutality of the Chechnya war and the tendency for Muscovites to see Chechens as monolithic, and (4) threw in a few plot wrinkles at the end. Given the constraints he faced, I thought it was a fine adaptationand was thoroughly engrossing. Mikhalkov himself, as the jury foreman, is a commanding screen presence as well.
Greetings again from the darkness. Not sure why this one took so long
to gain distribution, but it was definitely worth the wait! This is a
terrific interpretation of the story made famous in the classic 1957
Sidney Lumet version.
Director Nikita Mikhalkov, who has an Academy Award for his "Burnt by the Sun", tweaks the story by having a Chechan teenager accused of killing his uncle/stepfather. The story revolves around the prejudices and preconceived ideas that each of the twelve jurors bring with them into the makeshift deliberation room. Here a school gymnasium provides an interesting backdrop.
As with the original, the suspense builds slowly as each of the characters' back stories unfold as if we are reading a book ... one at a time. We find ourselves, as the viewer, passing judgment on each juror, just as they pass judgment on the accused.
The cast is exceptional and varied, which allows the script to work its magic. Whether you are a fan of the original or just enjoy character studies, this one is a must see.
The movie is bipolar. The upsides: great performances by many great
actors; a view that the movie provides into the minds of contemporary
Russians; and watching 12 post-post-Soviet (yet born and raised Soviet)
people engaged in the a very Western activity, where their universal
human feelings are intermixed with ways of thinking and arguing that
are skewed by the history and problems of Russian society. Having
characters give monologues in a single-room setting works very well for
the theatrically-trained actors. Also, the discussion of society's
problems and human responsibilities is refreshingly serious, in a big
contrast to most post-Soviet expression, which tends to be extremely
cynical (as argued quiet well by Efremov's character).
Downsides: certain characters are shallow caricatures clearly used to express Mikhalkov's personal tastes; way too many stretches in the plot; and the ending/punchline. Mikhalkov turns everything on its head in the end, very unconvincingly trying to argue that "freedom is slavery" and negating any civic benefit that the movie could have. This argument is basically a restatement of his political goals, most recently expressed off-screen by an open letter to Putin in the name of "all Russian artists" begging him to stay another term. Ironically, the argument is presented so weakly and crudely that Mikhalkov ends up shooting himself in a foot.
In Mikhalkov's preposterously overblown remake of Sydney Lumet's
Fifties jury deliberation drama 'Twelve Angry Men,' a Chechan teenager
(Apti Magamaev) is on trial for the murder of his adoptive Russian
father. To begin with, as in the Fifties movie, one man initiates a
long complicated process of reevaluation by voting "not guilty" when
everyone was prepared to send the boy off to life imprisonment and go
quickly on their way. In the original he was Henry Fonda, whose air of
probity was impeccable. This time he's a successful inventor with a
lurid alcoholic past (Sergey Makovetsky) and he sets no standard of
probity. Though "reasonable doubt" is mentioned (one of the jurors has
studied at Harvard and has the phrase in his head), the dissident vote
has no logical or specific basis. He just sort of thinks it was a good
idea to vote the other way.
Forget what happened in court; the meaning of the case; the analysis of the evidence presented. '12' focuses on the lives, the traumas and prejudices of the participants; the turmoils of a nation--and finally, most peculiarly, on what's best for the accused, be he innocent or guilty.
'12' is elaborate, illogical, and absurd. In terms of jury deliberation it is absolutely ridiculous. But it puts on a great show.
We are somewhere around Moscow. The twelve worn out, middle-aged men are locked by the bailiff in a school gym. And this is emblematic of the film's style. The men may be locked in, but they have a lot of room to play around in. No mere solemn deliberations around a long table for them--though there is a long table, and they do intermittently sit at it, these heavy-set, darkly garbed men, with a cluster of plastic water bottles in front of them.
Never for very long, though. In the course of the drama the twelve jurors throw a ball at a basketball net and a hypodermic at a dart board, or lift weights or play a piano. They restage the crime in a mockup of two matching apartments. They throw knives, and to prove a point, one threatens to stab another. They wander around, smoke, send off alarms, throw up, rage, sob. Mikhalkov is shamelessly prepared to do absolutely anything to keep this from being just a lot of talk. Hence the gym and all its accouterments, which include a giant disco reflector ball, an auxiliary lighting system, moments of total darkness, candlelight and spotlights, a large decaying heating pipe, and a wheelchair. And, the corniest possible symbol of confinement--a lone sparrow. And a series of independent "arias" when one juror or another gets up and does a long dramatic monologue about himself.
But that isn't enough. In the middle, there is a giant explosion, and there begin a series of flashbacks to the Chechan war, with fires and bombs and a dog running past the camera with a severed hand in its mouth. There are also many images of the accused as a boy, cowering among the rubble, or as a prisoner, dancing around in his cell in a down coat to keep warm.
Nonetheless '12's so successfully full of itself that it makes its over two and a half hours go by before you know it--despite a lot of wasted time and sloppy excess. Through the jurors' wild digressive monologues Mikhalkov and his co-writers Vladimir Moiseenko and Alexander Novototsky-Vlasov almost succeed in redefining what deliberations are about. But ultimately they are simply distracting us from the fact that he's only using the deliberations as a hook on which to hang all his thoughts about Russia's modern journey and the meaning of life.
The deliberations, therefore, aren't about the case. They're about the jurors (this figures in Lumet's film too, but more quietly). A belligerent bigot cab driver (Sergey Garmash) calls Chechans "savages" and assumes the boy is guilty. He attacks the elderly Jewish intellectual (Valentin Gaft) who's the second to switch his vote to "not guilty." He intimidates the Harvard man, a TV producer and a caricature (Yuri Stoyanov) into a fit of nausea and paranoia that leads him to change his vote back to "guilty." And later a reenactment awakens such painful contrition over his own violence as a father that he switches, late in the game, to "not guilty" himself.
A surgeon (Sergey Gazarov) sympathizes with the boy because of his Caucasian origins. A self-made man with sympathies for the underdog, he rejects the cabbie's bigotry early on. He also does a carnival turn showing off his back-home skill at knife-twirling. The director himself plays the jury foreman, who has his own surprise twist toward the end to disrupt things after it seems unanimity has been achieved at last.
What are we to make of all this? It must be seen more as an epic, operatic riff on the theme of Twelve Angry Men than a contemporary Russian re-imagining of its original concept. The concept of the law is remote from ours. In fact there is an epigraph to the effect that though the law is steadfast, mercy may take precedence over it. And there is no doubt about the reasonableness (amid all that is surreal here) of such concepts coming to mind when jurors must deliberate in a murder trial.
I lost tract of the reasons why various jurors changed their minds. When one did, usually somebody else followed suit. It was to be expected. One forgot to ask why. And in the end, '12' violates our essential notions of what a jury trial is about: that it has to do with arriving at a fair and accurate decision about a specific case. This can't possibly be called a good movie. But it's too vivid, entertaining, and rich in ideas to dismiss out of hand. As an artifact of contemporary Russia it is a mine of information--though all to be taken with a grain of salt.
"In a scene showing a Chechen town the writing on the wall says "Don't shoot. Only women and children here" but only in Russian. In Chechnia all signs like that were written in three languages - Russian, Chechen and Arabic because Middle Eastern mercenaries participating the conflict could not read in Russian. Besides, it's difficult to believe someone would put such a sign and thus indicate there is SOMEONE in there." In Russia EVERYTHING is believable, that's what Nikita Mikhalkov wants to say. This movie is a fiction, don't forget it! But all the stories told in it are possible and the way of thinking of these people may be hard to understand, but it's true. This film is a cut through the Russian Soul and it's great.
Even though, it's a loosely based version of the play, 12 Angry Men. The film is about 12 Russian male jurors who decide the fate of a Chechyen orphan who is accused of killing his stepfather, a Russian soldier and officer. Anyway, the film is done quite well with a fantastic cast of actors who each take a turn in defending their guilty to not guilty decision on the basis of the boy. Each actor takes a dramatic turn and we learn about their reasoning and rationale for their decision. It's a fascinating portrait and study of the Russian judicial system and an event such as the Chechyen War conflict which I don't know much about except from the film that it's bloody, dangerous, and unforgiving hell. The boy and the jurors aren't given names but each possess great performances in dramatic film. This Russian film is terrific and was nominated for the Academy Award for foreign language film. I wonder who it lost too because it's a great film and worth watching.
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