Movie Title: 12 Angry Men
Cast: Henry Fonda, Jack Warden, Lee J. Cobb, Martin Balsam (and others)
Director: Sidney Lumet
Writer: Reginald Rose
Release Date: April 10, 1957
Run Time: 96 minutes
Color: Black & White (Original)
Tagline: Life Is In Their Hands -- Death Is On Their Minds!
Eleven jurors are convinced that the defendant is guilty of murder. The twelfth has no doubt of his innocence. How can this one man steer the others toward the same conclusion? It's a case of seemingly overwhelming evidence against a teenager accused of killing his father in "one of the best pictures ever made" (The Hollywood Reporter).
Court room dramas usually consist of two lawyers offering rebuttals and witty quips in an actual court room setting. But this movie is different because, for a change, the viewer is able to see the entirety of the case, as it is discussed by a cloistered jury, behind closed doors.
The beauty of this movie lies in the multifaceted and multi-layered characters that are the 12 jurors in this story. Each with a unique personality and each bringing his own bias and experience to the table, as he makes the decision about if a young boy committed a murder or not. There is the jury foreman, who appears confident, squirms under the duty of a position he doesn't quite relish. One juror who is quite and content with his work, finding hard to form an opinion and clearly not comfortable giving it. Another one who seems to be an amiable businessman, but as the trial progresses, becomes more and more passionate and loses his impartiality towards the case. Yet another juror fights his own conscience, worried that he may not be qualified to make such decisions, and wouldn't want to make the wrong one as he could possibly ruin someone's life. Also, there is a juror who seems to be uncaring about the whole situation, and would vote any which way, in order to just get out of the entire ordeal. A wise old sage of a man, a watchmaker who is open to all aspects of the arguments presented - and, of course, the juror who cares the most about making the right decision, and incites others to look at the various complexities of the case, rather than terming it so black and white, cut and dry, and making a ill-formed decision. Another unique thing about this movie is, that these jurors never learn each others names, and neither does the audience. They are always just referred by their numbers.
The audience watches as this jury delves into matters of prejudice and bias, and balancing emotion and logic in a situation that calls for both. It is fascinating to watch how small little details in the case can steer a certain verdict into the entire opposite direction, however, the REAL beauty of this movie lies in each juror's personality unraveling in front of the audience. Cloistered in one room, around one table, these twelve men decide the fate of one young man. The entire movie takes place inside of one room, and there are no snazzy props to aid the actors - what you get, as the result of this stark environment, is pure and powerful acting. Each actor is perfect in his role as a certain juror, dialogue delivery is tight and the script is absolutely engrossing. An easy going movie to begin with, it soon has you pondering about exactly how much of your emotions play into your decisions - but should that bias and personal emotion to creep into your decision when you are making the decision about the life of someone else? This movie is a unique experience, and for me, the real core of it is one of the best ensemble casts I've ever had the pleasure to see working together. The acting is flawless, the script is brilliant, the subject matter is interesting, and all in all...this movie is A CLASSIC!
*Trivia* - At the beginning of the film, the cameras are all positioned above eye level and mounted with wide-angle lenses to give the appearance of greater distance between the subjects. As the film progresses the cameras slip down to eye level, and director Sidney Lumet gradually changed to lenses of longer focal lengths, so that the backgrounds seemed to close in on the characters, creating a greater feeling of claustrophobia.