Sunday, August 16, 2009

12 (2007)

The jolting opening scene doesn't prepare you for what follows in 12, a remake of 12 Angry Men (1957). It begins as the trial of a Chechen teen accused of murdering his soldier stepfather has just finished and jury deliberations are about to start. Because of courthouse construction, the school connected to same building allows the court to use their rooms. The school gym becomes the setting for the deliberations. They predictably start with 11 of the 12 jurors ready to return their guilty verdicts. When the lone not-guilty juror explains his position, we learn about motivations and backgrounds, which affects each of the juror's vote. The humor stands out--you get stoic deliveries, theatrics, slapstick and silly jokes. The movie occasionally dips into melodrama. It goes long and, at times, preachy, especially with so many litanies. The music conspires to escalate the tension while moving along the story.

All this said, the movie provides edgy social commentary on juries and the court system. You learn differences about the Russian legal system and also about racial tension between Russian and Chechnya. They didn't identify an alternate juror (maybe it would've screwed up the title) and the defendant was kept in a cell resembling a cage in the back of the courtroom. What was similar is the aversion to jury service. These jurors wanted to get out of there as soon as possible and return to life and work. (Most of the jurors I've served with have been considerate and engaged, but they often want to get back to work as soon as possible.)

12 was nominate for a Best Foreign Film Oscar. Watch it and don't miss the gags, symbolism and atypical ending. Plus, there is a juror who is a dead ringer for the late John Candy.

Writer/Director: Nikita Mikhalkov (co-written with Aleksandr Novototsky)

Country: Russia

Genre: Crime drama

Run time: 157 minutes

Scale: 4

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