Sunday, September 13, 2009

12 Angry Men (1957)

I apologize for the inactivity lately, since school has started and my dogs have been sick, my time's been spent elsewhere. But I return, bearing gifts, in particular an entry for the classic 12 Angry Men.

For those not familiar with the film, it follows 12 All-male, All-white jurors in a single room in a courthouse, charged with the determining the fate of a young Latino who is accused of murdering his father. When they cast their initial vote, all are prepared to give a sentence of Guilty, except for one juror, Juror #8 (Henry Fonda).

What follows is a re-examination of the evidence that pulls into question if the jurors can say with absolute certainty that the young man is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

What makes the film interesting is how diverse these men are. Since they are all of the same ethnicity and gender, you can get to the real issues that may effect jury votes. For example, one of the juror's has tickets to a sporting event, and is basically willing to vote any way that will end the trial as soon as possible, while another is hopelessly bigoted against minorities, talking about "those people" and "their kind".

It's hard to talk about the performances, since the cast is quite large and it's very much an ensemble piece. But you can't really talk about 12 Angry Men without talking about Henry Fonda and Lee J. Cobb.

Henry Fonda proves that he is probably the greatest "Everyman" actor with this film, as he gives Juror #8 nothing more than intelligence and a belief in justice. Other than that, he's a typical man, we know nothing of his past except that he's an architect. But we don't need to know, because Henry Fonda spells out his history with his own face, showing a man who believes in being fair and taking pull responsibility of the duty he has been given as a juror.

Lee J. Cobb serves as the "villain" of the film, he is a man who has a personal vendetta against the accused, because of his own broken relationship with his son, he sets out to act as executioner against the generation that has broken his heart. He is older and less educated than Juror #8 and he makes his decision based on emotion and from the get-go, we know that he is the one Juror that will be the hardest to convince, setting up for a interesting battle of the wills between the two actors.

Praise must be given to director Sidney Lumet who never makes us feel trapped or claustrophobic. Since the film, for the most part, takes place entirely in the jury room, it's up to the director to keep things interesting, visually. And Lumet pulls it off effortlessly, keeping the camera focused on the brilliant acting and dialogue and never letting us become aware that the action doesn't shift locations.

But really, you don't need me to tell you to see this movie, it's an American classic that speaks of the issues that the justice system faces as well as being a showcase for some truly great acting.


  1. Thanks for reminding me of a great movie. I haven't seen it in years and ought to go back to it.

  2. And thank you very much for reading :)