12 Angry Men
Directed by Sidney Lumet
Written by Reginald Rose
Repeat viewing/Netflix rental
#333 of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die
Lumet gathered all the great character actors of the 50’s into one room with Henry Fonda and made a stage play work compellingly as cinema.
The camera takes us into a New York court building and past several courtrooms until we arrive at the chambers where a young Latino is on trial for capital murder, accused of stabbing his father to death. We are there at the judge’s instructions to the jury. Twelve unnamed men gather in the jury room. After some pleasantries, they get down to business. Most think they will be able to leave for the day in fairly short order. After all, It is an open and shut case backed up by a couple of eye witnesses. The jurors are all the more anxious to leave since the room stifling hot and the fan doesn’t work.
The jurors immediately take a vote and Juror No. 8 (Henry Fonda) is the lone hold-out for acquittal. It’s not that he’s so sure the boy is innocent but that he wants to discuss the evidence. This makes some of the other jurors really mad. Some were persuaded by the prosecutor’s case. For others the ethnicity and social class of the accused is evidence enough. Juror 8 brings up a couple of points which make him uncertain. Further discussion changes some other minds. With Lee J. Cobb, Ed Begley and E. J. Marshall as the angriest arguers for a guilty verdict; Martin Balsam as the foreman; and Jack Warden as a guy with tickets to that night’s ball game.
What can I say after I have said that this is a perfect rendition of a stage play? Lumet keeps his camera movement so vital that we never feel claustrophobic in that little room. He also stages the actors brilliantly. The acting is top notch and the theme is thought-provoking and timeless. Highly recommended.
It has always bothered me that Henry Fonda brought that knife with him. It seems to me improper for the jury to be discussing something not in evidence. Now that I think about it though, there could be a safety issue! I wonder what they do nowadays with dangerous exhibits.
12 Angry Men was nominated for Academy Awards in the categories of Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Writing, Screen Play Adapted from Material in Another Medium.