PICK 12: Russia Does Right by an American Courtroom Classic

Russian actor/director Nikita Mikhalkov’s masterful, engrossing 12 is a revamp of 12 Angry Men that takes place in post-communist Moscow. The jury is now deciding the fate of a Chechen youth accused of murdering his adoptive father, a Russian officer. Despite the abridgment of the title, however, Mikhalkov’s updated jury doesn’t include any females—various sectors of modern Russian society are uniformly represented by late-middle-aged males, with Mikhalkov himself playing the foreman. It’s a fitting choice in that the working men, despite having adapted to both “democratic forces” and capitalism, also embody Russia’s past; during a remarkably fleet 159 minutes, each one shares the ways that past has shaped him and his perspective on a case loaded with nationalist baggage. Mikhalkov keeps 12 tops spinning at all times in the school gymnasium that serves as the jury’s deliberation room, and though the speech/conversion pattern grows a little pat, the movement toward consensus raises the further richly complicated question of how to decide not only what is right, but what is best.