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Wednesday, Mar 11 2009
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Nominated for a Best Foreign Language Film Oscar in 2008, Russian actor/director Nikita Mikhalkov’s masterful, engrossing 12 is finally finding its way into theaters. A revamp of 12 Angry Men that takes place in post-communist Moscow, 12 takes some liberties with both the original material and its new setting: The jury is now deciding the fate of a Chechen youth accused of murdering his adoptive father, a Russian officer, and the story adheres to the pretext of a unanimous vote, although the Russian system does not require it. 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; over the course of a remarkably fleet 159-minutes, each one shares how that past has shaped him and his perspective on a case loaded with nationalist baggage. Miklahkov keeps twelve tops spinning at all times in the school gymnasium that serves as their 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.
March 13-19, 2009

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Michelle Orange

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