12
PG-13
Entertainment: +3
Acceptability: +2

Sergey Makovetsky. Art/foreign, drama. Written and directed by Nikita Mikhalkov.

FILM SYNOPSIS: Though his fellow jurors are convinced that the defendant is guilty of murder, one man manages to convince his fellow colleagues that the case is not as clear cut as it might have seemed in the courtroom.

PREVIEW REVIEW: If that plot sounds vaguely familiar, harken back to the days of B&W films, when Henry Fonda and Lee J. Cobb were reasons enough to go the movies. In 12 Angry Men, Sidney Lumet’s film directing debut, the same story managed to entertain both critics and moviegoers. This new version is made by Russians, complete with subtitles, and while the scenario holds up and the performances are first rate, its 159-minute length and added scenes of wartime brutality are unnecessary. In 95 minutes, the American filmmaker tightly told his story, giving us little reason to ask, “Is this ever going to be over?”

According to the press notes, “actor-writer-director Nikita Mikhalkov prospered during the Soviet era and survived the collapse of Communism, becoming his country's best-known and successful film director, not to mention a leading candidate to succeed Boris Yeltsin as President of Russia.” Through flashbacks in his take on the original, which was written by Reginald Rose, we slowly, ever so slowly, learned of the defendant’s background and the times he had to survive. Rose and Lumet proved excessive violent visuals to be unnecessary. Perhaps the update is meant to make the production seem less stage-like, but the script of the 1957 film wants us to remain claustrophobic, thereby sensing the inner turmoil the characters are undergoing. Through Rose’s penetrating dialogue we get to know the defendant, but he’s not meant to be the focus. Rose and Lumet are examining the effects of bigotry and preconceptions, penetrating the consciousness of the twelve “judges.” Mikhalkov uses his approach to reflect political and social conditions along with the prejudice angle.

It’s a well-made film, but far too long, and in no way an improvement on the original.

It’s rated PG-13 for violent images, disturbing content, thematic material, brief sexual and drug references, smoking and brief language.

Preview Reviewer: Phil Boatwright
Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics

Summary
Crude Language: A couple of crude sexual comments.
Obscene Language: I caught only one obscenity, the s-word.
Profanity: Jesus’ name is taken in vane one time.
Violence: Several flashbacks reveal wartime atrocities, with dead bodies laying in a town, the boy’s mother shot in the head; at one pint, a couple of the jurors nearly come to blows. Blood: Blood on the dead bodies.
Sexual Intercourse: A segment has a man talking about his young mistress, describing her physical charms.
Nudity: None
Homosexual Conduct: None
Sexually Suggestive Action/Dialog: None
Drug Abuse: Several of the jurors smoke.
Other: None
Running Time: 159 minutes
Intended Audience: Mature Audiences

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