Reviews for March 4th, 2009
Directed by Nikita Mikhalkov.
In Russian with subtitles. Twelve jurors gather at a gymnasium in a high school in order to decide the fate of an adolescent Chechen boy (Apti Magamayev) accused of killing his adoptive father. They all seem to be in a hurry and hope to leave the jury room within an hour or two so that they could go back to their busy lives. When an indecisive juror decides to vote “not guilty” while everyone else votes “guilty”, another juror ((Sergey Garmash), a racist cab driver, demands that he explain his particular reasons that led to that vote. The juror repeats the details of the murder and raises some very provocative questions that point to some gray area in the case. In other words, by articulating his logic and reason to the eleven other jurors, he shows how he simply cannot vote “guilty” beyond a reasonable doubt. Gradually, more and more jurors speak out about their true feelings and come to realizations while the racist juror continues to latch onto his vote of “guilty” without really questioning or analyzing it. Director/co-writer Nikita Nikhalkov tries his best to make this a refreshing remake of Sidney Lumet’s classic 12 Angry Men, but goes a little too overboard with its visual style. While the 1957 film used subtle camera angles, lighting and a leisurely pace to achieve a sense of heightened realism and suspense, the cinematography in this remake feels to chaotic and nauseating with its jerky camera movements and a rather rapid pace that doesn’t give you enough time to be absorbed into the deliberation scenes. On a positive note, it’s somewhat compelling to observe how each juror’s personality comes out gradually as the plot progresses. Nikhalkov also includes some dark comedy as a means to ease some of the dramatic tension. Just like in the 1957 film, you never get to actually see the crime being committed nor do you get to see or hear what the jurors experienced in court, except for references to witness testimonies. There’s also some interesting symbolism added, such as a bird that has flown into the gymnasium where it becomes trapped. At an excessive running time of 159 minutes, 12, which received a nomination for Best Foreign Film at the 2008 Academy Awards, manages to be mostly intense and provocative, but occasionally drags with too much pretentious style over substance and not enough subtlety. Number of times I checked my watch: 3. Released by Sony Pictures Classics. Opens at the Film Forum.