12 ANGRY MEN [1957] movie review – recommended

September 1, 2013 · Print This Article

I do not use the term flawless masterpiece lightly when associating it with a movie, but I cannot find any reason to not use that description on 12 ANGRY MEN [1957]. I have had the movie ready to watch for over a year and was waiting for the right time, and it proved wise to do so as this is an incredibly special movie and not to be one watched casually.

The number of small details in this movie is incredible, from a drop of sweat forming to the timing of rain falling, this is a movie that was made, that was crafted. Every single frame of it was on purpose and masterfully displayed by director Sidney Lumet. The opening long continuous shot starting at crane height showing the lobby of a courthouse coming up the stairs, past a phone booth, by a gathering of a happy wedding party then a security guard shooooshing them as the camera shows the courtroom doors of a murder trial that just ended and ultimately falls upon the jury, the 12 angry men.

We hear nothing of the trial proper, just the judge giving final instructions to the jury. We learn of the first degree murder case all through jury deliberations. It is a fascinating process. Mesmerizing really. The case seems to be very clear in that the defendant is guilty. The first vote taking at the start, 11 guilty, just one not guilty. That would be Juror #8 played by Henry Fonda. I have enjoyed his western roles and now will make it a point to watch his filmography. At this point in the story you truly think how in the world could he possibly persuade a single one of them to change their vote. The other thing is, if found guilty, the death penalty is mandatory so they would be sending an 18 year old young man to the electric chair.

For what the jurors lack in gender diversity, they make up for in differences in character. Many do not take things nearly as seriously as the situation demands. Some have prejudices and other issues blocking them from seeing the defendant as innocent until proven guilty.

Juror #8 begins planting the seeds of doubt as the evidence against the accused is examined. Every time this starts one or another juror erupts in protest and screams we all know he is guilty, why go through this all again, or similar. How the holes are poked in the case against the young man is extremely compelling and clever. And the more that is revealed about the case, the more that is revealed about the character of each juror.

The climax is thrilling. This is a black & white movie that takes place 98% of the time in a small conference room with zero special effects. The camera moves in turn with the plot revelations, tension is built slowly and steadily.

12 ANGRY MEN receives my highest possible recommendation.

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