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12 Angry Men
Crime, Drama, Mystery
IMDB rating:
Sidney Lumet
Martin Balsam as Juror #12
John Fiedler as Juror #12
Lee J. Cobb as Juror #12
E.G. Marshall as Juror #12
Jack Klugman as Juror #12
Edward Binns as Juror #12
Jack Warden as Juror #12
Henry Fonda as Juror #12
Joseph Sweeney as Juror #12
Ed Begley as Juror #12
George Voskovec as Juror #12
Robert Webber as Juror #12
Storyline: The defense and the prosecution have rested and the jury is filing into the jury room to decide if a young man is guilty or innocent of murdering his father. What begins as an open-and-shut case of murder soon becomes a detective story that presents a succession of clues creating doubt, and a mini-drama of each of the jurors' prejudices and preconceptions about the trial, the accused, and each other. Based on the play, all of the action takes place on the stage of the jury room.
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12 Angry Men: A Classic Work of Genius
12 Angry Men is a 1957 American drama film with elements of film noir, adapted from a teleplay of the same name by Reginald Rose. Written and co-produced by Rose himself and directed by Sidney Lumet, this trial film tells the story of a jury made up of 12 men as they deliberate the guilt or acquittal of a defendant on the basis of reasonable doubt. In the United States, a verdict in most criminal trials by jury must be unanimous. The film is notable for its almost exclusive use of one set: with the exception of the film's opening, which begins outside on the steps of the courthouse followed by the judge's final instructions to the jury before retiring, two short scenes in an adjoining washroom, and a brief final scene on the courthouse steps, the entire film takes place in the jury room. The total time spent outside the jury room is three minutes out of the full 96 minutes of the film.

12 Angry Men explores many techniques of consensus-building, and the difficulties encountered in the process, among a group of men whose range of personalities adds intensity and conflict. No names are used in the film: the jury members are identified by number until two of them exchange names at the very end, the defendant is referred to as "the boy", and the witnesses as "the old man" and "the lady across the street".

In 2007, 12 Angry Men was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" and is often seen as one of the greatest films ever made.
Definitely Deserves the Praise
This film is nothing short of perfection. I don't want to do a huge review so I'll sum up why it's so brilliant.

Great actors Great believable script Very original concept Shot cleverly (lack of close ups unless it's really necessary. Because the effect isn't used much, it is more effective) No complaints or plot holes of any kind.

I encourage anyone to watch this film!
12 Angry Men, 1 Happy Me
I rarely say a film is perfect, but this one just might. If you haven't seen it yet, turn off your laptop or whatever, go to the nearest store that sells DVDs (I have no idea if it exists in BluRay) and buy it (downloading is bad !). Then, sit on your freaking couch and watch the darn film ! (Or whatever, just see it ASAP).

This "huis-clos" is absolutely brilliant ! The acting's great, the plot is smart, the characters' portraits throughout the movie are very interesting (mostly because they're all different).

I have waited a long time before seeing it, never quite finding the motivation to do so. I really can't explain why ! Maybe partly because I was afraid it would have aged too much... but I was entirely wrong.

I had seen a play with the same plot, and loved it as well. I'm glad I finally watched the film, and I invite you to do the same !
A good courtroom drama but not without problems
The interesting thing about 12 Angry Men is that you come away from it and can't honestly say if the jury were right to acquit the accused man. The film never really answers the question of whether he was guilty or not. It just simply says that it was impossible to be sure. The film is ultimately about the Not Proved verdict.

At least I certainly hope that we as an audience were not supposed to leave the film thinking that the accused man was definitely innocent. The counter-evidence brought to our attention by juror no. 8 (Henry Fonda) is often not especially convincing but seems to be taken very seriously by progressively more and more men in the room until inevitably we have a unanimous Not Guilty verdict. An example of this, is when Fonda successfully gets the others to acknowledge that the old man witness is unreliable, yet then goes on to base a major part of his own evidence on the old fellows testimony that he took fifteen seconds to get to the door to witness the murderer fleeing. Fonda clearly assumes that this man he has determined as unreliable would get his exact timings spot on in a moment of heightened emotion. It may seem like a minor point but there are just a little too many of these small inconsistent assumptions littering 12 Angry Men for me to feel it was an entirely successful exercise. I really couldn't help shake the notion that Fonda's character had his own agenda and was simply unwilling to back down. Perhaps he was the most persuasive man in the room and that was ultimately the reason that the decision was made. It's difficult to really say with any certainty that the accused was innocent at all. Did they really make the correct decision?

Setting this consideration aside, one thing the movie does have in abundance is stellar acting talent. The 12 members of the jury are well played by all. While the direction is simple but highly efficient; it is not an easy task to set a movie in one room with dialogue the only action on offer but Sidney Lumet does keep things moving along at a good pace and maintains the interest. This is certainly a good movie despite my misgivings. For me it does ultimately have a definite ambiguous quality and if that was the intention then I can hardly argue with that.
Great movie
I remember seeing 12 Angry Men about 10 years ago and really enjoyed it, but I watched it a bit closer last week, and realize what a great movie it really is. I love the movies of the 40's and 50's and I would have to say that 12 Angry Men is up there as one of the best 5 movies of that era for me. There are some many things happening in this movie, that it takes more than one viewing to pick it all up. The camera work is first class, starting off with full view of all 12 jurors, and as the movie progresses and the jurors re-asses their decisions, the camera show the jurors looking straight down the lens, giving the impression they are talking straight to the audience. No names are given till the very end of the movie and then it is only 2 jurors, apart from a quick scene in the courtroom and outside at the end, the rest of the movie is filmed in the jurors room on a hot stinky summers days.

Although not a long movie, the emotional turmoil felt by the jurors is explosive and the audience are drawn into the same gut wrenching feel. I highly recommend this movie.
12 Great Actors

12 Angry Men is one of a few films that take place in, essentially, one location. Such a story requires, first of all, an intriguing Script. Second, it requires great acting...and that is exactly what it has.

Certainly one of Fonda's best, 12 Angry Men earned every single one of its Oscar Nominations.

As this film is nearing fifty years old, it is slipping away from current audiences -- which is truly unfortunate. Anyone interested in court drama cannot miss this film. Furthermore, anyone who can appreciate a witty script with real characters and excellent verbal warfare will enjoy this film.
Great Classic
12 Angry Men is as simple as it is profound, and as bare-boned as it is a showcase of true camera-work and directional complexity. It is as much a film about the justice system in America as it is a film about people; a film that lets the viewer into a single room for 90 minutes (the film moves forward quicker than real time) and examines the quirks, insecurities, prejudices and glaring background differences of twelve different characters.

The film begins in a courtroom as a murder case is coming to a close. The judge informs the twelve jurors of their duty as though it were just another day in his life, as though the defendant (an 18-year old street kid) has already been proved guilty. In general, nobody in the film expects the potential (and probable) difficulties that the viewer anticipates externally. It is an "open and shut case" as the remarkable, unnamed juror (played by Lee J. Cobb) states in the first ten minutes.

Of course it isn't, otherwise 12 Angry Men would be an "open-and-shut" film. Opening credits play over an empty room which gradually fills up as the jurors takes their seats and prepare for the ballot. Over this time, we see windows being opened, negotiations taking place and pleasantries exchanged. If these 12 men agree that the c12 Angry Men (1957) by Sidney Lumet - Unsung Filmsase presents enough evidence to show that the crime had in fact been committed, then the verdict will be guilty. But if there is any room for what the judge calls "reasonable doubt", then the verdict changes.

Each character in this film is entirely different. It almost feels as though each has been handpicked to take part in a sort of experiment – and it very much feels like we are watching one unfold. Each man represents something unalike. With one man's decision not to conform, or at least not to believe everything that was discussed in the courtroom, 12 Angry Men erupts. Gradually, we start to understand these men; first, we are let it on some of their social backgrounds – one is an immigrant (possibly Greek or French) and one admits to have grown up in the same conditions as the young defendant. Both men should be able to relate to the defendant in many ways – for a moment, we are afforded a glimpse at the defendant's face, an immigrant from an anonymous ghetto. Strangely, both men vote "guilty" without hesitation.

12 Angry Men (1957) by Sidney Lumet - Unsung FilmsHenry Fonda lets us in on his reason for disputing — he simply does not want to decide on a person's life in the space of five minutes. This is understandable; the viewer takes his side and so, it seems, does the filmmaker. But some of the jurors argue as though it were personal; as though the young man had slaughtered their own sons, daughters and wives. Some of the men, and most noticeably Cobb as juror no. 3, work themselves up into a blind fury.

As the film goes on, it becomes evident that the case was never as clear as the jurors had announced at the beginning. For some, the more reasonable and likable characters, it had simply been a case of accepting the evidence provided without questions. For others, assumptions had been made as a result of deep-rooted prejudices and massive complexes. While many change their minds with the influence of rational thought, some characters simply get angrier and more aggressive; two characters give away their racist views and the powerful scene that runs over the final ten minutes, works to reveal so much about the most moving and brilliant character portrayal in the film.

The happenings described in court unfold for a second time over the duration of 12 Angry Men. By the end, it as though we possess the same knowledge of what happened in the courtroom over the days of the trial, as the twelve men in the film. Helmed by Fonda, juror no. 8, the situation is played out again with incredible detail; every argument and theory presented to us is done so with such extreme care and passion. This is one of the film's that stay with you for a lifetime because its simplicity allows itself to be engraved in the mind, while the complexity of it demands that you make sure it is.
An absolute must for anyone who considers themselves a film buff
This is one of the greatest films ever made...period. Much of this can be attributed to the exceptional writing and much of this can be attributed to the amazing performances in one of the best ensemble casts in film history. In fact, anyone who considers themselves a film buff or a serious student of film cannot say so unless they have seen this film. I also wish all young directors and writers were forced to watch the film as it demonstrates the power of excellent writing and acting. Imagine...a film that is great that does NOT have special effects, was filmed in black and white, and 99% of which takes place in one small room.

Aside from Henry Fonda, all the other actors are a virtual "who's who" of supporting character actors from the 1950s--and all were at the top of their game in this film. Unfortunately, the film has been parodied and copied so many times that the film's originality has been blunted. Oddly, one of the parodies of this plot came from the TV show "The Odd Couple"--which starred Jack Klugman who was ALSO in 12 ANGRY MEN! See this film. And, if it turns out you don't like it, then I suggest you see a psychiatrist!!!
A Contrarian View
I've always have had problems with this movie. Seeing it listed so highly made me re-watch it and give it another assessment. It has never struck me as a "movie". It's a closed set drama of twelve men talking in a closed room. That presents a pretty high bar to get over to turn it into a movie. Unfortunately it doesn't even seem to try to get over it.

This movie is a turd sitting there. A highly polished sincere turd, but a turd nonetheless.

First the setup. A young man is on trial for murdering his father, stabbing him with a switchblade, apparently as a result of an argument. From statements in the movie, it seems that he is a member of a despised, slum-dwelling minority. The boy is shown to be dark but 'white'. The actor who plays the juror that is his compatriot is Jack Klugman, of Russian Jewish heritage. Was an audience meant to take seriously, even in the '50s that assimilated Jews were on such a low social rung? Were they meant to be some other swarthy European? Italian, Greek, perhaps? To me the only folks likely to be identified that way in '50s NY would be blacks or Puerto Ricans. I know that Hollywood at the time had a real problem casting actors of color, but this whitewashing takes me out of any willing suspension of disbelief.

Then the jurors themselves. They almost all seem one dimensional tropes. Let's go in order:

1) The foreman, a High School Football coach. Just trying to keep the process rolling, without a high degree of insight into the issues.

2) The mousy accountant. Not assertive or expecting to be listened to if he did assert himself.

3) Likely the most interesting, a self-made business man, who has issues with a man needing to be 'manly'; assertive to the point of bullying. He has a failed relationship with his own son that is the key to his behavior on the jury.

4) A stockbroker. A bland technocrat who never sweats. He seems almost the post-war Nazi stereotype of 'only following orders'.

5) The representative of the under-class. So scared of appearing to favor 'one of his own kind', that he compensates by going with the prevailing social order.

6) The common man. At Passover he'd be the son that 'knows not how to ask'.

7) The salesman. Approaches this as a sales pitch, and wants to get it over with to be able to get to tonight's Yankees game.

8) Our beloved identification figure. Wants to avoid the rush to judgment. An architect he (possibly along with his antithesis the stockbroker) is the best educated and well spoken of the bunch. Literally 'the man in the white suit'. Congratulations to you Mr. audience member for smugly identifying with him.

9) The old man. Given to pearls of insight that derive from his experience and wisdom.

10) The racist. Even if the kid isn't guilty, his kind are troublemakers and deserve what they get.

11) The good immigrant. A watchmaker, quiet, polite, well spoken.

12) The ad man. Got to have one of these in any '50s NY set story. Send his gray flannel suit up the flag pole and see if anyone salutes it.

Are any of these, with the possible exception of #3, real human beings?

The argument. The bulk of this exercise is the destruction, point by point of the prosecution's case. A highlight is when #8 presents the jury with a duplicate of the supposedly unique murder weapon, a similar one which was purchased by the by the young man. I'm not a student of the law, but I can't believe that such a introduction of such evidence into jury deliberations is acceptable procedure. Also, although the prosecution's case is sufficiently demolished to introduce the reasonable doubt necessary for an acquittal, never is a plausible alternate scenario is never offered. Why did some intruder enter the murdered man's apartment and kill him? Robbery? Never suggested. Another gang-banger looking for the son? Why was the man stabbed in a non-experienced way? Why is the murder weapon clean of fingerprints?

So, well acted, competently shot, but to my mind a failed drama, and still a non-movie.

Finally, with over 900 member reviews I expect that this will be buried. And, why do we need a spoiler tag on a nearly sixty year old movie?
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