We are all used to courtroom dramas, but one aspect that never seems to get dramatised is the Jury deliberations. I think one of the reasons for this lack is that this excellent film did it so well that no other Jury drama will ever stand up to it.
We are never shown the court case the jury are deliberating. The film starts with the summing up of the Judge, and the jury filing into their room. What follows is an adsorbing ninety minutes as the jurors discuss the case and a verdict is reached. At first all but one (Henry Fonda) believes the defendant to be guilty, but Fonda has reasonable doubt, and a belief that as a man's life is at stake then the least they can do is talk it through properly.
Having served in a jury myself (though in a British court and where the possible penalty for the defendant was a lot less severe than death) I recognised a lot of what was shown in this film. People willing to convict out of blind prejudice, people wishing to weigh every item of evidence before reaching a verdict, people wanting to just get it over with as quickly as possible. It is a tale that really struck a chord with me.
For dramatic purposes some of the prejudices and arguments are a bit over the top, and as we have not seen the trial then the writer is free to introduce evidence and arguments out of thin air (the point about the glasses in the discussion of one witnesses testimony) in order to make a neat narrative. I can forgive these points. What I cannot, however, forgive is the lack of attention to legal detail. There are one or two instances, especially in the first discussion of the murder weapon, that are just plain illegal and would cause a juror to be dismissed. I have had to knock a star of for that.
The film is brilliantly directed by Sidney Lumet. The action all takes place in one room, we are often distracted as two or three conversations are going on at once, in a very verite manner. As the movie progresses Lumet changes the lenses on the camera and the angle of the shots to give an ever increasing feeling of claustrophobia and tension.
It is an excellent character study, as each of the 12 disparate men and their motives are examined. This is a combination of excellent writing, directing and superb acting. The twelve actors are on top form, and give convincing and moving performances.
It is not often I enjoy a film with all talking in one room and no action, but this had me adsorbed.
This DVD has a nice black and white widescreen transfer, which doesn't have any noticeable scratches or defects. The sound is pretty good. The only extra is a trailer. Four stars in total.
on 17 August 2006
Produced by Henry Fonda and Reginald Rose (screenwriter and the author of the original play) and directed by the great Sidney Lumet (in this his cinematic debut) this mainly jury room centred film, is quite simply the greatest film ever made. Lumet, who cut his teeth in television, brought a lot of unknown television acting talent with him to this unique piece of work. Seasoned film actors, Fonda, Lee J Cobb, Ed Begley, Robert Preston and E G Marshall dovetail seamlessly with the other players, among them Martin Balsam, Jack Warden, Jack Klugman and Edward Binns.
The plot is ridiculously simple. A young Hispanic man is on trial for murdering his father, and in what appears to the majority of the jury, an open and shut case of guilty.
One man, Henry Fonda, as juror number 8, stands alone as the dissenting voice against the prejudice and preconceived ideas of the other 11. Though bit by bit, the evidence is broken down and what initially appeared so certain becomes a reasonable doubt in enough of the jurors minds as to expose the bigoted notions of a couple of them.
The essence of this film is in it's refreshing simplicity in terms of staging, dialogue and delivery. The actors are all on top of their game, working with first class material. Other films rely on epic sets and or clever camera techniques to hold the audiences attention. (I discount Citizen Kane from that as it was a true landmark achievement) This film, above all others, proves that that is not necessary. Twelve Angry Men rewards the viewer even after the 30th watch (certainly in my case! I could play the parts myself, although not quite as good!). Simply the best!
on 2 August 2006
12 Angry Men is a forgotten classic. When talking about the greatest films of all time, it rarely comes up. Yet EVERY single person I have met who has seen the film has adored it.
In a movie world where big celebrities and expensive special effects seem to be what brings the money in, this film is so refreshing. In this film, there is only one star name - Henry Fonda. He plays one of only 14 speaking parts in movie. There are four sets: The courtroom (2 minutes at the start), outside the courthouse (30 seconds at the end), and then the bathroom and the jury room. No fancy effects, just 12 characters with nothing but a script in their heads to give to keep you entertained. This is how films can be done!
The plot is simple; a young boy is accused of murder. The case seems open and shut to 11 of the jurors who vote guilty. Only one (Fonda) is even unsure. When he wants to discuss further he is greeted by two bigots, desperate to put 'one of them' to the chair, a man who is only interested in going to watch his beloved Yankees and cares little for the outcome and a host of weary men, who are sick of the whole situation; very few are even prepared to listen. For the next two hours, every fact of the case is ironed out until what was black and white becomes very grey.
12 Angry Men is one of the finest films I have ever seen. Sidney Lumet's directing captures the stuffy, intense and claustrophobic atmosphere of the room while all the actors make their characters memorable. This film is a dream.
on 14 December 2014
Here's a corking old drama from 1957.
Henry Fonda leads a well-chosen cast of character actors that includes Lee J Cobb, Martin Balsam and Jack Klugman as a jury almost in meltdown. Even today, each individual is a cameo of the sort of people you can meet anywhere. Together, they have to determine a suspect's innocence or guilt of a capital crime. Discussions become combative, personal and insightful. There's some nice witty and terse exchanges, with lots of little twists & turns you don't quite expect.
The idea of a dozen men stuck in one room, ranting at each other for almost an hour and a half, may not sound like the stuff of riveting entertainment, but director Sidney Lumet does a fine job of keeping the story simmering. In view of the claustrophobic limitations of space, camerawork is simple and sly and employs an imaginative mix of close-ups and `long' shot. It's natural and unobtrusive without being flashy.
Run time is quoted as 92 minutes. There's a `U' certification. It's filmed in black & white and still has a nice, clear print. Aspect ratio is stated as 1.66:1.
If you fancy something cerebral, you could do a lot worse than this.
"12 Angry Men" is a cinematic classic from the final days of the age of the Silver Screen. It's a drama that presents the story of a courtroom jury - made up of twelve white men - who deliberate over whether to find the defendant guilty or not. As the film starts, eleven of the men believe the defendant to be guilty, with only one man unsure ... and so a discussion ensues - often very heated - on what constitutes 'reasonable doubt'. Finally, some 90 minutes later, these twelve men reach a unanimous verdict. It's a superbly acted movie - most notably by Henry Fonda and Lee J. Cobb. And it's directed in a manner that, although almost exclusively filmed in one room, remains exciting and engaging. It's a film about both how personalities can conflict and about the ways in which consensus is built - and how these issues affect the practice of justice. Given the seminal importance of this movie, it deserves to be watched.
The movie centres on a the debate that takes place between jurors - in a New York City courthouse. An eighteen-year-old black 'boy' from a slum area is on trial for allegedly stabbing his father to death. The jurors are instructed by the judge that if there is any reasonable doubt then they are to return a verdict of not guilty. Otherwise a guilty verdict will result in a mandatory death sentence. With the jurors opinion divided - 11-1 - in favour of a guilty verdict, one man - Juror 9 (Fonda) - is faced with the task of explaining why he believes there is reasonable doubt. And the way he goes about doing this is, quite simply, amazing. Every point made by the prosecution is subjected to criticism, and shown to be potentially erroneous. What's so encaptivating is the ridicule Juror 9 faces - even though he admits that the defendant might be guilty. The point is, reasonable doubt exists - and, on that basis, Juror 9 refuses to submit. And, slowly, others become convinced by what he says.
This is a genuinely dramatic movie, and the way it's presented in black and white only seems to add to its gravitas. I highly recommend this film. I recently purchased the Blu-ray edition, which offers superb audio and video quality - and I suspect that this is the best quality version.
This is an amazing film, even though on paper I would have thought it looked a bit dull. But you don't need to be a fan of courtroom dramas to be held completely captive by this, even though it barely moves outside one room (not the courtroom, in any case!). As a character study it is so gripping, with all twelve roles being superlatively realised, and the script subtly puts across a leftwing, anti-capital punishment ethos that is very gratifying to see, especially in an era when such views were less widespread than now. The film portrays many nuances of masculinity in its characterisations, all of them spot-on, while at the same time demonstrating the importance of the notion of proof being needed 'beyond reasonable doubt' before you can find someone guilty. As an exemplary case it works very well to have nothing conclusive brought forward; it all hangs on the doubt. It also manages to use the weather and lighting to expressive, claustrophobic effect, and builds in a dramatic escalation in the form of one man being rejected by all for his racist sentiment, symbolised by their all getting up one by one from the table in disgust, and finally the toughest guy to get through to being publicly brought to face his own problems in a way that is very moving indeed. So many argued positions are actually projections of emotion above all. The film reflects the sexist and racial bias of its period, hence the jury consists of all white males, without this being commented on as such, but you feel confident Lumet would have stood outside the norms of his time on these issues too - it is very clear from everything in the film, even if nothing is explicitly said. And Henry Fonda brings great depth to the portrayal of a truly good man and the enigma of such a person who has such insight without self-consciousness.
on 25 April 2009
In my view this is one of the best drama movies of all time.
No scenery, no graphics, no sex, just pure acting skills and directing of the highest order.
The theme is also very thought provoking. The jury room action not only provides the vehicle to show that our predjudices can lead us to pre-judge people but also examines the reason why 'going with the flow' or seeking to resolving conflicts by consensus are not always appropriate. Some situations need individuals to stand firm on what they believe is right, even through the personal discomfort bought about by engaging with bullies and in the face of ridicule etc.
In this gripping drama we see juror no. 8, played by Henry Fonda, systematically challenge the other jurors to examine the basis of their individual prejudices. He creates doubts to a sufficient point that, one by one, they ultimately open their minds to other possibilities. In reality, this is a somewhat implausible premise, but it serves the purpose with the climax achieved when the true motivations of the most vehement of 'guilty' verdict proponent are revealed.
Ironically, the drama also shows that delivering the right outcome to what you believe in often involves mustering the same level of advocacy skills as the lawyers in the court case we never see!
12 Angry Men is directed by Sidney Lumet and adapted from a teleplay of the same name by Reginald Rose. The cast is headed by Henry Fonda and Lee J. Cobb. The film tells the story of a jury made up of 12 men as they deliberate the guilt or innocence of a defendant on the basis of reasonable doubt. Except for two short scenes at the beginning and end of the film, it's filmed entirely on one set, that of the jury deliberation room.
Sweaty, gritty, claustrophobic-all words that sit snugly in the context of Lumet's excellently crafted deconstruction of 12 men trying to arrive at one verdict in the case of a Puerto Rican youth on trial for the murder of his father. The evidence appears overwhelming, there's witnesses, a murder weapon and motive, the boy is surely on his way to the electric chair. 11 of the men are convinced he's guilty, only one man stands alone, Henry Fonda's juror number 8, who refuses to turn in a vote of guilty until the evidence and facts are discussed at length. As the others rail against him and tempers get frayed, juror number 8 prompts the others to examine their own prejudices and commitment to justice.
A lesson in tight direction and editing, and with performances to match, 12 Angry Men is quite simply not to be missed by those seeking to venture into classic cinema. 9/10
on 18 July 2007
forget this film was made in 1957,forget its black and white.this is a movie classic when the term actually meant something.a script tighter than a hulk hogan arm lock,and a star studded cast,this is one of those films that leave you satisfied and glad to have watched it. it tells the tale of 12 jurors.eleven are convinced that the defendant is guilty of murder.the twelfth has no doubt of his innocence.in a case of seemingly overwhelming evidence against a teenager accused of killing his father,how can one man steer the others to the same conclusion? has to be 'one of the movies to watch before you die'
on 20 November 2006
words. At least, this film is too good for my words...
I cannot conjure the magic with my words. I cannot capture the nuances, the creeping sense of...at first fear...then building tension...then hope...frustration...second wind...and finally elation!
Possibly too young too appreciate every aspect - I was 14 when I first watched this film. I walked the yards to the doorway as Fonda did, I held the flick knife and felt its weight...turned it in my hand to hack (over arm)...then stab (under arm)...thought about the best way to kill a man. I turned the arguments over in my head as they unfolded on the screen. I lived the drama.
I'm 28 now and I'm an architect. This movie is one of the reasons why I chose that particular career path. Watch the final reel and find out why...