It is a remake of the American all-time classic 12 Angry Men. Twelve angry Russian men are the jury in the trial of a Chechen youth who is facing life imprisonment for the murder of his Russian adoptive father, who took the boy home from the Chechnya war. As with the 1957 movie, the jury seems to be poised for a quick Guilty verdict, but one holdout—in this film juror #1—surprises the rest by voting Not Guilty. As with the 1957 movie, #1, after first simply insisting that they should take more time to deliberate, starts to poke holes in the prosecution case.
The jurors convene not in a cramped jury room as in the original, but in the gym of the next-door high school, because the courthouse is being renovated. As with the 1957 movie, the most insistent Guilty vote is #3, though this Juror #3 is an obnoxiously racist cab driver and old-school Russian who hates Chechen Muslims and Jews. Other jurors include a businessman who was educated in America, an elderly Jew, a surgeon, an actor, a gravedigger, a TV producer—a broad cross-section of (male) Russia. #3's offensive personality starts to sway more jurors to the Not Guilty side, as does the calm logic of #1, who casts more and more doubt on what seemed an open and shut case.
Besides directing the film, Mikhalkov also stars as juror #2, the foreman.
- Adaptation Expansion: The movie is a full hour longer than the 1957 version. There are more soliloquies, as each character gets his own speech at least once during jury deliberations. There are also shots of the young man in his cell, as well as a series of flashbacks showing the Chechnya war and how the boy came to be in the custody of the Russian soldier.
- The Blade Always Lands Pointy End In: It certainly does when one of the jurors flings the syringe at the dartboard. And later when the surgeon flings the knife up in the air only for it to land dramatically on the table.
- Buxom Is Better:
- The jurors are impressed when they find a very capacious bra in one of the gym restrooms.
- Towards the end of the film the gravedigger tells the others that he wants to get this over with, so he can go to the airport and meet his hot young girlfriend. "She has tits like melons!"
- Composite Character:
- #1 has the number of the 1957 film's Juror #1, but the overall personality and role of Juror #8.
- #3 is openly racist and biased against the defendant, bringing Juror #10 to mind.
- Cuffs Off, Rub Wrists: As is mandatory movie law, the young man rubs his wrists after he's returned to his cell and his cuffs are removed.
- Dream Sequence: Opens with the young man, who has dozed off in court, having an odd dream in which his mother is mouthing the judge's instructions while none other than Mikhail Gorbachev appears giving his December 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union speech.
- Eagleland Osmosis: Actually, juries are not required to reach unanimous verdicts in the Russian legal system.
- Sort of. If less than 3 hours have passed in deliberations, the verdict must be unanimous. After three hours though, they just need a majority.
- Epic Tracking Shot: The first vote of the jury is shown in a 3 1/2 minute continuous take in which the camera does a full 360-degree circle around the jury table. Then the camera zooms in on #1 as he announces his Not Guilty vote, before finally cutting to another juror.
- Extremely Short Timespan: Not Real Time or close to it like the 1957 film, but still, only a few hours over a single afternoon and evening.
- Flashback: Part of the Adaptation Expansion that makes this movie an hour longer than the first one, as the young man's backstory is filled in through a series of flashbacks.
- Gray Rain of Depression: A corpse-strewn Urban Warfare ruin in Chechnya is made that much more depressing by rain.
- Jerkass Has a Point: #3 the racist cabbie juror is pretty horrible. However, he is properly incredulous at times about the woolly thinking of some of his fellow jurors, like the one who says he's going to vote Not Guilty because his uncle was Let Off by the Detective after snapping at work and taking the secretaries hostage.
- Jury Duty: Think so?
- Let Me Tell You a Story: A lot. Starts with #1 telling a long story about how his wife was nice to him when he was an alcoholic wreck, so he wants to slow things down and vote guilty. Then another juror tells a long story about how his uncle was let off the hook for having a breakdown and taking people hostage, so he's voting not guilty. Pretty much every juror gets in Let Me Tell You A Story mode at some point. (Hilariously, after #3 tells a long story about how he arrived Just in Time to stop his son from hanging himself, and then changes his vote to Not Guilty, one of the other two Guilty holdouts says "That was very convincing" and changes his vote too.)
- Nameless Narrative: As was the case with the original film.
- Orbital Shot:
- As noted above, the first jury vote, the 11-1 vote for conviction, is shown using a camera take that does a full circle completely around the jury table.
- There's a smaller-scale orbital shot around Juror #1's head right after #3 tells a particularly horrifying hypothetical to get the TV producer to change his vote.
- Repeat Cut: The opening montage features three consecutive repeats of the same shot of the murderer's feet barreling down the stairs.
- The Reveal: The second major difference between this movie and the original, after the Adaptation Expansion, is that the jurors in this case actually figure out who the real murderers are. They eventually deduce that real estate developers had the soldier killed because he wouldn't vacate his apartment, which is in a building the developers wanted to tear down.
- Rogue Juror: Just as in the original, the skeptical juror conducts his own investigation, including undercutting the prosecution's case by producing a knife that's identical to the murder weapon. Later the real estate developer does the same, getting the bailiff to obtain documents relating to the sale and demolition of the soldier's building.
- Setting Update: From America in the 1950s to 2007 Russia. The whole film is really a meditation on the problems facing Russia in the new century, with the cross-section of jurors from a variety of backgrounds, and the aging, decrepit gym representing Russia's decaying infrastructure.
- The Smurfette Principle: You'd think that changing the title from 12 Angry Men to 12 would have freed the filmmakers to put some women on the jury, dammit. Nope. The only female part in the film is that of the boy's mother, seen in the opening dream sequence and a couple of flashbacks.
- Stock Legal Phrases: One juror mentions "beyond a reasonable doubt", admits that it's an American Stock Legal Phrase, but still uses it to justify his not guilty vote.
- Title by Number: Not 13, that would be silly.