12 Angry Men (1957)

12 Angry Men12-Angry-Men-1957
Directed by Sidney Lumet
Written by Reginald Rose
1957/USA
Orion-Nova Pictures
Repeat viewing/Netflix rental
#333 of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die

 

Juror #6: [when Juror #8 asks him to “suppose” the defendant’s innocence] Well, I’m not used to supposin’. I’m just a workin’ man. My boss does all the supposin’, but I’ll try one. Supposin’ you talk us all out of this, and, uh, the kid really did knife his father?

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.

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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.

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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.

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4 thoughts on “12 Angry Men (1957)

  1. Did not think of the knife that way, but you are right there. Today that just would not happen. Otherwise this is an awesome movie and the best so far in 57.

    • Yesterday, I watched the 1954 TV version that was included in the Criterion Blu-Ray I rented. Let’s just say that Robert Cummings is no Henry Fonda! It also had Franchot Tone in the Ed Begley part and Edward Arnold in the Lee J. Cobb part. Did not begin to reach to the heights of the movie.

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