When a Chechen youth is put on trial for the murder of his stepfather, it's up to a room full of jurors divided by racism and prejudice to determine the boy's ultimate fate. One by one, each man takes center stage to confront, connect and confess while the accused awaits a verdict. Slowly the tide of opinion turns, as the jurors begin to realize their decision will forever change the course of another person's life. As they deliberate, the accused revisits his heartbreaking journey through war in a series of powerful flashbacks. Director Nikita Mikhalkov's Oscar®-nominated remake of 12 Angry Men is a brilliant look at fear, trust and the triumph of human nature.
This Russian film is provocative on a number of levels, but it proves one thing for certain: Reginald Rose sure had a great idea when he came up with 12 Angry Men
. The set-up is rock-solid: Twelve jurors are sequestered into a room to hash out a decision on the murder trial they've just sat through; at the outset, eleven are for conviction, one for acquittal. Then things start heating up. Rose originally wrote the script as a TV production in the Fifties, which then became Sidney Lumet's classic 1957 film. Here, Oscar-winner Nikita Mikhalkov (Burnt by the Sun
) explodes the premise into a large, loquacious Russian version. To give you an idea of the differences, consider that Lumet's film was 96 minutes long but the Russian goes on for over two and a half hours, and now the original's cramped room is replaced by a large, airy high-school gym. The new one also travels outside the room for occasional flashbacks. In other words, 12
is very Russian, with loaded political material (the accused man is Chechen) and complex arguments about the various viewpoints and class levels in Russian society. The most furious of the 12 men is a raging anti-Semite (powerful Sergei Garmash), while the initial voice of reason (a.k.a. the Henry Fonda character) is played by Sergei Makovetsky. Mikhalkov himself plays the foreman of the jury. This is an elbow-throwing, scenery-chewing kind of movie, with nothing writ small. You sense that Mikhalkov wants to put it right in the face of his fellow Russians, and so he does, relentlessly. --Robert Horton