You know how it goes: Someone tells you an "art" film is good, you put it on your list, you Netflix or rent it. And then it sits, because you don't have quite enough energy to watch something that might require your brain to kick into first gear. Such was 12, with me, until I decided to give it the "30 minute test": if I wasn't hooked in 30 minutes, back to Netflix with this sucker.
I was hooked inside of ten minutes. This Russian language film (English subtitles)serves notice that the Russki's really can make good films, REALLY good films. Based on the premise of the original American drama Twelve Angry Men, a Chechen teen is accused of murdering his Russian stepfather. The jury expects deliberation will take less than a half hour, the audience knows otherwise.
Though borrowed from an American film, 12 is uniquely, and in many ways, purely Russian. Using sharply defined acting and amazingly detailed character studies, 12 unfolds for Westerners an intimate portrait of Russia in the 21st century, and a fascinating and engaging portrait it is. In a way reminiscent of Slumdog Millionaire, the story unfolds as each juror tells a story about life in Russia, each story but one whittling down the guilty votes. Each story reveals the Russian soul and temperament in ways that a dry treatise simply cannot.
Complete with a twist at the end that is engaging and powerful, this film will please any viewer that prides him/herself on being a student of foreign cinema. A bit lengthy (hey, ever heard of a Russian novel that was SHORT?) 12 will reward a bit of patience richly.