Billy's Film Reviews.

A series of film reviews and opinion pieces from a film student and all round movie lover! Happy reading!

12 Angry Men (1957) – Classic Review

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Nobody likes jury duty. Most of us dread it, and for some, we count our lucky stars we haven’t yet been selected for it. Having said that, if all jury sessions were as powerful and dramatic as the chaotic vocal slaughterhouse seen in “12 Angry Men”, it’s fair to say many would think otherwise about avoiding jury duty.

Sidney Lumet’s “12 Angry Men”, an intense murder trial drama that takes place almost entirely in a single room, simply consists of twelve unique, unnamed jury members. The plot is simplistic, a puerto rican boy is accused of murdering his father and the case appears to be settled. The twelve-man jury retire to an isolated room to reach a verdict that initially seems unanimously in favour of guilty.

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There is however one that disagrees, there always is. Juror #8 (Henry Fonda) doesn’t believe the boy is entirely innocent, however he believes in reasonable doubt and thorough analysis of events in order to truly get to the bottom of it all. As #8 states “I’m not trying to change your mind, it’s just we’re talking about somebody’s life here.”
He proceeds to try and convince his fellow jurors not to change their vote, but simply think deeper about the case itself and vote on what is factual and fair. The manner in which this task is approached is truly astounding.

Essentially having twelve protagonists, the film is evenly spread out in terms of screen time and status. In addition, the singular location allows for significant character development and understanding of every individual. The way the audience begins to know each juror is through Fonda’s Juror #8, who one by one, explores every juror’s reasoning, beliefs and individualities to provoke, inspire and persuade their way of thinking.

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Every member is different in so many ways; age, nationality, interests, occupations, tolerance, backstories and even plans for the day. There are those who are uncomfortable, shy and deeply passive whilst there are those who are stern, unwavering and brutally stubborn, all the while including everything in between.

Arguments, disputes and blatant irritation dominate the atmosphere within the jury room, and as the temperature increases, so does the drama. Although we don’t know any of the member’s names, we understand every single juror’s character in full depth by the end of the film. This is highly effective and something that is incredibly difficult to achieve in a 90 minute piece.
The character ark of each member is exhibited dramatically within the piece, each being unique in it’s own way. Some characters experience a fluctuation in attributes and idiosyncrasies rather quickly whilst otter take longer, some may stay ruthless to the bitter end.

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This is truly one of the most engaging and enthralling dramatic pieces in cinematic history. The amazing effort to have twelve mismatched, unnamed strangers occupy a single room and simply talk for 90 minutes whilst maintaining potency and interest is nothing short of astounding. As the plot progresses, more and more is unearthed and explored within the seemingly settled case which adds intrigue, mystery and doubt about the situation as a whole.

Twists, turns and tension are what shape the foundations for this fascinating film that, at times, feels like a stage production. The set design, the claustrophobic and humid atmosphere combined with the overly dramatised screenplay mould into a fiery epic that escalates substantially to say the least.

With excellent performances throughout, a minimalistic structure and a triumphant script, “12 Angry Men” is fascinating and incredibly engrossing. The structure is superb and the escalation of events is supremely tense and entertaining. This is truly one of the all time greats.

5/5

Recommended By Darcy Coulter

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