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12 Angry Men October 16, 2006

Posted by Sai in English, Movies, Reviews.

This is an exceptionally brilliant film that was the directorial debut of Sidney Lumet (Dog Day Afternoon, Serpico, Network, The Verdict). This spellbinding film, made in 1957, was adapted from a 1954 teleplay (by the same writer) and was remade in 1997 (for TV) starring Jack Lemmon among others. Though it is now considered to be one of the greatest films of all time, it did not win any Oscars, having lost out to Bridge on the River Kwai in the top three categories (it did win the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival).

The movie is about a court case. A young boy is charged with the murder of his father and all the evidence points to him being the culprit. The events in the courtroom are completed but the jury still needs to make a decision. Now, it is upto the jurors to decide whether or not there is reasonable doubt in their minds about the lack of innocence of the boy.

The movie takes place almost completely in the jury room (except for 3 minutes). We are used to seeing courtroom dramas that never show you what takes place in the discussions between the jury. Instead, we get to hear the final verdict from the jury. So, the idea to reverse that completely is a beauty. It is a beauty, not because it does something different, but because the film elegantly captures how important and difficult the responsibility of the jury really is and its importance in the American Justice system.

The acting is topnotch. Leading the cast is Henry Fonda, playing Juror #8, who is responsible for reminding the other jurors, the importance of the job at hand and for awakening their conscience. He is ably supported by the likes of Lee J. Cobb (On the Waterfront) and Martin Balsam (Psycho, On the Waterfront) among others. The acting is of primary importance in a drama like this and all the twelve actors contribute to the movie.

The beauty of this movie is its simplicity. The credit for this goes to Reginald Rose (primarily a writer for television) who creates a wonderfully taut and engrossing screenplay that remains uncluttered despite developing 12 well-defined characters. There isn’t a second in the running time of 96 minutes where you want to take a break and get away from the jury room. And, there isn’t an instant where the writer tries to move away from the story and the characters to provide the audience with some moments of relief.

This is a great subject for a movie and it fits in with Lumet’s repertoire. Lumet, apparently used different lenses and eye levels through the movie to increase the feeling of claustrophobia in the audience, raising the tension as the movie progressed. Lumet, who definitely has a place in my list of favorite directors, creates what might be his best film on debut (from the films of his that I have seen so far, this is surely my favorite).

This is an appealingly written, alluringly directed and superbly acted drama. This film is a treasure and shouldn’t be missed by any cinema enthusiasts. If you haven’t seen this movie yet, rent it now!


1. Holden Caulfield - June 29, 2008

This film really amazed me looking at it I though it would be really boring at first but its actually real exciting and you learn a lot from the film about the American court system as well as racism at that time. Henry Fonda and Lee J. Cobb are absolutely amazing. I just love Henry Fonda as an actor which made me watch another of his films the Grapes of Wrath.

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