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20 out of 34 people found the following review useful:

Jury deliberations turned into operatic national debate

Author: Chris Knipp from Berkeley, California
13 March 2009

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.

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7 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

Still shocked

Author: kiramorena from Serbia
19 October 2010

I watched this movie because I had nothing better to do at the moment. I wasn't really paying attention at the beginning, but then, it sucked me in... somewhere around the middle, I was sitting speechless, with my mouth open and in shock - how come I never heard anything about this masterpiece before?! The movie easily made it's way to my 'top 5 movies of all time' list, and I recommend it to everybody who like inconvenient, intelligent and brave stories. One more thing - try to stay out of the 'political background', 'propaganda', 'bad copy of a classic' talking, just enjoy the magnificent acting and the touching story that leaves all of us with divided opinions, but forces us to think about it, over and over again. That's the whole point!

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and if ?

Author: Kirpianuscus from Romania
12 February 2017

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

a complex story. about truth, society and humanity essence. about justice. and about a decision who escapes from the ordinary life of each prisiazhnyy. not comfortable. almost cruel. because it is not only a Mihalkov film. but a precise fresco of Russia, small sins who become essential to decide, about guilt and about lies, about the judgement about yourself. each did it a religious film in the manner who only Russians are the science and courage and patience to do one. because pieces from Tchekov and Dostoievsky and Harms are mixed in a honest portrait of the ways to escape from reality, to be protected by large zone of selfishness, to do a verdict about the other like for yourself. and if ? this is the question who transforms in experience this film for the viewer. because the viewer has the chance to be one of prisiazhnyy. or the Chechen young man. so, it is useful to see it !

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one of the greatest films ever

Author: dimbost
16 February 2015

I miss smart movies like this. No need for cheesy one liners, flashing of boobs. or stupid scenes with stupid dialogue.

The film grabs your attention from the start and doesn't let go until the end credit. Doesn't need anything in the middle to keep you still entertained.

The film examines human behavior to one another, it explores how each one of has certain personal issues and how those issues affect our social behavior.

one of the greatest films ever made 10/10 Wish they would make them again

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12, the best Russian Remake

Author: Guilherme Costa from Portugal
22 March 2014

"12", became one of my personal favorites as it's very well put together with excellent acting and a representation of humanity at its full complexity and uncertain nature. It explores, through the stories of which characters, many human expressions and feelings like hope, terror, faith and kindness. The master's touch is explicit in the way that this all plays out, not only in the excellent performance but also in the very subtle way the story is told. Mikhalkov gives us a remake with something more, a Russian touch, with a critic to the Russian way. 12" won a Golden Lion at Venice Film Festival, and with every right. This movie has a powerful acting and a compelling story-line. Is definitely worth watching.

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2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

court drama tells a lot about Russian realities

Author: dromasca from Herzlya, Israel
29 June 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

12 is a remake of the classical 12 Angry Men - Sidney Lumet's ultimate jury drama. What makes Nikita Mikhalkov, a director who never lacked original ideas or Russian scripts take the court drama located in the US of the 50s just out of the McCarthy period era and transplant it with all its 12 characters, with very similar premises and very predictable (at least up to some point) end into the reality of today's Russia?

I believe that the intent is explicit and declarative. Russia undergoes now a similar process of transition as the USA in the 50s, and the end is still uncertain. The laws may be already written in the books of laws, the jury system is called in theory to allow for fair trials in which the accused is presumed innocent until l proved guilty, but laws are implemented by humans and humans have limitations and prejudices and they are in a hurry to give a verdict and get back to their lives. As in Lumet's film, it is more the human beings than the system that ensure that justice is eventually done. The responsibility of every man to stand up and express his doubts despite the overwhelming opinion of the other, the right of the minority in a democratic system to have its say despite the apparent rightfulness of the majority are key elements in the Russian film as well as in the original American one.

And yet at the same time Mikhalkov's film is very Russian. The mix of characters represents various sectors of today's Russian society and the acting is without exception splendid. National tensions and antisemitism are still part of the landscape, and so are the cultural and even the language sequels of the Communist period. The jurors, all men (why?) address each other inertially with the denomination 'comrades'. Each has the opportunity to tell his story, and the stories describe the background of their personalities, and the motivation of their decision to eventually absolve the innocent. it is however the surprise ending that adds a new dimension to the film. The Chechen youngster wrongly accused of killing his Russian stepfather is acquitted. However, his acquittal may mean just a suspension of a death penalty in the hands of the mafia who are the real responsible of the murder. It takes a rather melodramatic ending to solve this problem, and this interesting addition to the original American story is both unconvincing as story flow but quite eyes-opening. Although the court drama is for almost the whole duration of the film confined inside the walls of the same room it tells a lot about the Russian realities at large.

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5 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

Grand opera

Author: sergepesic from Minneapolis, USA
12 October 2009

Immensely talented Russian director Nikita Mikhalkov left a lasting impression on this viewer with" Burnt by the Sun", heart-wrenching judgment on the Stalin purges of the 1930' and 40'. This time he makes completely different kind of movie. "12" is like a passionate grand opera, filled with larger then life gestures, and solo speaking arias. The clownish humor mixed with despair, mockery with condemnation. Mikhalkov's Russia of the early 21 century is like a leaky, drafty gymnasium that movie is set in. People lost and sometimes found, scared and scarred,brutish and intimidated, but one and all, full of zest for living and convoluted stories to tell.Nobody is understood and everybody is wrong, but themselves. Director's love for Russia is endless and his desire for its wellbeing feeds his courage and determination to share few painful truths, hoping that his unpleasant message will be heard.

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8 out of 16 people found the following review useful:

Superb Performances (but some audio problems for me.)

Author: imxo
25 April 2009

I found this movie to be a theatrical feast, but with a couple of nagging annoyances.

I want to get the annoying parts off my chest first, because chronologically that's how I encountered the movie. It seems to me that Russians have never mastered the art of sound mixing. Whether in old Soviet films or in this modern Russian one, there is always something not quite right with the sound.

As the film began I found that the background noises were much louder than the speech of the actors. The sounds of doors slamming, children yelling, workers working, and so on were loud and clear, but the actors' voices were practically whispers in that maelstrom. I don't know why that is. Could it be only in the foreign, sub-titled version of the film? I don't see complaints about the sound levels from anyone else, but I'm pretty sure it's not just me. I desperately wanted to listen to the Russian dialog, but the low audio level of the voices forced me to read the sub-titles throughout most of the film. It was a bit like walking with a small stone in my shoe.

Not having seen the "12 Angry Men" movie on which this current film was based, I was forced to accept "12" on its own merits. Thus, I experienced this film not as a remake of a previous movie, but as a filmed a stage play with phenomenal actors. Perhaps as a result, I unequivocally enjoyed this acting extravaganza. There may have been some occasional carpet chewing, but overall the performances were astounding. I certainly wish the IMDb list of players had more information about who played which role and had more biographical information about the individual actors. Perhaps someone familiar with Russian films and actors could throw more light on the matter. Much the same criticism, of course, could apply to IMDb's level of information on foreign films in general.

Frankly, I didn't take the matter of the guilt or innocence of the "accused" very seriously. With all the theorizing the jurors were doing, and with the serious lack of real information for us in the audience, there was absolutely no way to determine real guilt or innocence. If anything, the flashback scenes were more confusing than enlightening. So, as far as I was concerned, it was the jurors, particularly the "Great Russians" among them - who were at the center of the film. Watching their "paralysis by analysis" was the real treat, irrespective of whether they reached the right conclusion in the end. As far as that conclusion is concerned, I have no idea what Mikhalkov means by it. His own screen character was obviously implying that he has a unique insight into things, intimating that perhaps he had been at one time in the KGB, GRU, or had been a member of some other allegedly all-knowing organization? Frankly, this was a bit off-putting and seemed to imply that the State and its workers knew things that the average citizen just hadn't a need to know. In any event, despite having a relatively modest role for most of the film, at the end Mikhalkov came a little too much to the fore for my taste. I'd be very happy to read a Russian reviewer's explanation of Mikhalkov's character.

A word or two about the depiction of Chechens. The music, dancing, and overwhelming maleness of Chechen culture were solidly, if briefly, presented. One certainly cannot stereotype all Chechen men as being similar to the Chechen fighters depicted in this film, but the characterization of those fighters was phenomenal. In this film the Chechens fighters' raw power to intimidate, threaten, and attack their enemies those was palpable. I'm aware that even Alexander Solzhenitsyn praised the indomitable culture of Chechens in the Gulag. They just never, ever, yielded to the Soviets.

So, I rate this film very highly. Perhaps I'm missing the film's more subtle propaganda that some here have mentioned, but that's something I can continue to think more about. I highly recommend "12."

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0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

You have to be a Russian to REALLY understand the ending...

Author: Gavno ( from Mad City, Wisconsin
14 February 2013

I encountered "12" by accident, and I'm glad I did. I've been into Russian and Soviet films for a very long time; all a part of being a Russophile! In the winter I wear a Red Army issued ushanka, my wrist watch is a Soviet Air Force Sturmanskie, I often have a KGB hip flask in the inside pocket of my motorcycle jacket, and the bike itself is a Russian Ural!

From the little I've learned about the ex-Soviet Union and it's military, I gathered enough to get the shocking FULL IMPACT of the ending's meaning.

I won't spoil things here... but after seeing the film, look up the Army's SPETZNAZ units, and learn a little about how they're trained and how they operate.

After you know that... YOU'LL get the punch line here too.

"Uncle" isn't what he seems to be...

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0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

I speak English, watched it with Subtitles. Loved the Film but found some actors OTT.

Author: Mariam from United Kingdom
4 January 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I really like the storyline. However it could be just me because I don't speak Russian but i thought half of the Jurors were over acting. Like i said, i watched it with English subtitles and i know translating a language could lose some of the 'gist' of what people are actually saying or meaning. To me, apart from the constant 'laughter and joke' majority of the jurors lacked emotion; or what they were saying didn't make sense with there actions. e.g: when each told there own story. There emotions didn't 'fit' with what they were saying or when one got hot headed it seemed it was over nothing. I do blame the translation. Overall I really enjoyed the whole storyline and the way it all headed. Although i must admit the 'near' ending shocked me. Thank God they made the decision that they did!

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