Time: 96 Minutes
Age Rating: contains low level offensive language
Martin Balsam as Juror 1
John Fiedler as Juror 2
Lee J. Cobb as Juror 3
E. G. Marshall as Juror 4
Jack Klugman as Juror 5
Edward Binns as Juror 6
Jack Warden as Juror 7
Henry Fonda as Juror 8
Joseph Sweeney as Juror 9
Ed Begley as Juror 10
George Voskovec as Juror 11
Robert Webber as Juror 12
Director: Sidney Lumet
When a Puerto Rican boy is on trial for the alleged murder of his father, 11 of the 12 jurors are quick to vote that he is guilty in an ostensibly straightforward case. The remaining juror, Juror #8 (Henry Fonda), seems sceptical about the evidence at hand and demands a thorough deliberation of the facts from each juror before sentencing the boy to death, to prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
I remember that I watched 12 Angry Men for the first time many years ago and I remembered liking it. However, it had been a while since I had seen it, so I’ve been meaning to rewatch it for some time. Having finally rewatched it, I can say that I love it even more and it’s now one of my favourite movies. This is an incredibly made, entertaining and engaging film, written, directed and acted excellently, and is absolutely a must see.
12 Angry Men is based off the play of the same name, and you can really feel that it’s based off a play, especially with the heavy focus on dialogue. While I’m not familiar with the original play, they seemed to have translated it very well to the big screen. It has a great script, with some well written dialogue, and it keeps you constantly engaged throughout. Even though you don’t learn most of the characters’ names, they are very memorable and distinctive (albeit with some receiving more characterisation and focus than others). Given the subject matter and how simple and straightforward the initial setup is, the movie could’ve been dry and uninteresting but it is very interesting and even entertaining. The movie really is driven by the dialogue, and it’s compelling to watch all of these characters’ discussions and debates on the centre issue. The way that 12 Angry Men sets up the plot at the beginning is actually brilliant. At the beginning of the movie, we never see the actual trial, and we only hear about the case through the jurors in the room that the movie takes place in 99% of the film. The film also has a lot to say thematically, including systematic racism and xenophobia, and much more than you’d expect going in. The plot is tightly paced across its 97 minutes yet with never a dull moment.
There are 12 actors playing each of the jurors, and all of them do a fantastic job in their respective roles, bringing these scripted people to life with naturalness and sincerity. The most well-known of the actors is Henry Fonda in the lead role, playing the only juror who at the beginning believes that the defendant isn’t guilty, and he’s great in his part. The rest of the cast including Lee J. Cobb, Ed Begley, E.G Marshall and Jack Warden also deserve as much praise as Fonda.
Sidney Lumet’s direction was also a big reason of why the movie works so well, even though it’s not usually what comes to mind immediately to most people when they think of 12 Angry Men, compared to say the writing and acting. Lumet’s first feature film has great cinematography, and not just in the sense of looking flashy and stylistic, at first glance it’s pretty standard (albeit looking decent). However the use of blocking and focus (particularly on faces) is really effective. Additionally, lingering on certain moments, people and objects, not breaking the shot and letting things play out made some moments really made the scenes even better than they already were.
12 Angry Men is an absolutely essential film to watch for sure. The writing is fantastic, the acting is phenomenal, and it’s directed greatly. At over 60 years old it remains an absolute and timeless classic, and can appeal to pretty much everyone, even if you’re not really into ‘old movies’, and is now firmly one of my favourite movies of all time. If it’s not a perfect film, at the very least it’s pretty close to it.