Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.5. Russia, 2007. Federal Agency for Culture and Cinematography, Studio Trite, Three T Productions. Screenplay by Nikita Mikhalkov, Aleksandr Novototskiy-Vlasov, Vladimir Moiseenko. Cinematography by Vladislav Opelyants. Produced by Leonid Vereshchagin. Music by Eduard Artemev. Production Design by Viktor Petrov. Costume Design by Natalya Dzyubenko. Film Editing by Enzo Meniconi, Andrey Zaytsev. Academy Awards 2007. Venice Film Festival 2007.
A marvelous experience even if you are completely unfamiliar with Reginald Rose’s original teleplay or film adaptation of 12 Angry Men, enriched by seeing what happens when such a strong piece of work is filtered through a different cultural context. With their courtroom under construction, twelve members of a jury are gathered into a school gymnasium to debate the facts of a case of murder that they have been presiding over, that of a young Chechen boy accused of killing a Russian military officer who was also his foster father. As with Rose’s original, the men examine the minute possibilities of each piece of evidence, and like in the Lumet film they reveal more about themselves in their feelings of the boy’s guilt or innocence than they do about the case at hand. What’s different here is the added themes of multiple nationalism as explored by the situation, as well as the much longer character exposition in their conversations: these men don’t just talk about the case, they give long, explosive monologues about their lives, tell allegorical tales and debate the validity of their own feelings about minorities within their own country. At a massive 160-minute running time, the exquisite performances and pristine dialogue make it fly by in a flash, and the added scenes of the life of the accused and the terrific ending make for overall perfection.