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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
An excellent courtroom drama with a unique twist. Instead of following the
trial itself, the viewer has a unique chance to observe the events behind
the closed doors of a jury room. The film begins with the end of the trial.
The jurors retire to deliberate the case. A preliminary vote is taken and
the result is 11:1 in favour of the guilty verdict. Eleven jurors have
raised their hands to convict a young man of killing his father. Only Juror
#8 has doubts. At first even he does not truly believe the young man to be
innocent but notes (rightfully) that the case for the defence might have
been presented in a more convincing manner and that the boy might be given
the benefit of a doubt. Since the boy is to be executed if found guilty his
life is now in the hands of the jury and juror #8 reasons that the least
they could do is talk about the case a bit. As time goes on some of the
jurors change their minds and find that there is perhaps enough reasonable
doubt not to convict the young man after all. But not everyone is easy to
Although the plot of the film is excellent and it is fascinating to see what little things can influence which way a verdict goes, where this film really succeeds is in presenting the characters of the 12 jurors. The character of each of the jurors emerges through a wonderful mix of perfect casting, excellent dialogue and near-flawless acting.
Juror #1 - a simple man who clearly does not understand the full complexity of the task that lies before him but is trying to do everything not to let anyone else find this out. He appears at ease only once during the film - when he talks about football. He has the misfortune to be selected foreman of the jury - a task he clearly does not relish.
Juror #2 - a small, quite man, clearly unaccustomed to giving his own opinion much less to expecting his views to be of any importance. Apparently he finds solace in his job - he is an accountant.
Juror #3 - probably the most complex personality in the film. Starts off like a pleasant self-made successful businessman, he analyses the case impartially, explains his arguments well and is reasonably self assured. As time goes on he becomes more and more passionate and seems to be somehow personally involved with the case. He also starts to show some signs of slight mental instability. Wonderfully played by Lee J. Cobb - this is the character you remember after the film is over.
Juror #4 - self assured, slightly arrogant stockbroker. Obviously considers himself more intelligent than anyone else in the room, he approaches the case with cool heartless logic but (as one of the jurors says - "this is not an exact science") he does not take into account the feelings, the passions, the characters of the people involved in the case. He is conspicuous by the fact that he is the only juror that does not take his jacket off (it is a very hot day).
Juror #5 - here is a man under great emotional stress. He comes from the same social background as the accused boy - with who he almost unwillingly seems to identify with. Paradoxically this appears one of the main reasons for him voting guilty - he does not want compassion to influence him - so ironically it does.
Juror #6 - a simple man, quite readily admitting that everyone in the room is better qualified than he is to make decisions and offer explanations. But he really wants to see justice done and it worries him that he might make a mistake.
Juror #7 - the only one that really has no opinion on this case. Literally throughout the film his thoughts are never on the case - he talks of baseball, of the heat, of fixing the fan but the only reason he has for voting this way or that is to speed things up a bit so he might be out of the jury room as soon as possible. Not an evil man he just has no sense of morality whatsoever - he can tell right from wrong but does not seem to think it's worth the bother.
Juror #8- a caring man, has put more thought into the case than any of the other jurors. He tries to do his best even in the face of seemingly impossible odds.
Juror #9 - a wise old man with his great life experience has quite a unique way of looking at the case.
Juror #10 - the most horrifying character in the film. Votes guilty and does not even try to hide the fact that he does so only because of the boy's social background. The tragedy comes from the fact that his own social position is only a cut above the boy's - which makes him all the more eager to accentuate the difference.
Juror #11 - an immigrant watchmaker, careful methodical man, well mannered and soft spoken. respects the right of people to have different opinion to his - and is willing to look at both sides of the problem. Loses his temper only once - horrified by the complete indifference of juror #7.
Juror #12 - a young business type - perhaps he has his own opinions - but is careful to hide them. What he has learnt out of life seems to be that intelligence is equal with agreeing with what the majority of people think.
The film succeeds in doing something very rare today - developing an intelligent plot while also developing 12 believable, memorable and distinct characters.
'12 Angry Men' is an outstanding film. It is proof that, for a film to
be great, it does not need extensive scenery, elaborate costumes or
expensive special effects - just superlative acting.
The twelve angry men are the twelve jurors of a murder case. An eighteen-year-old boy from a slum background is accused of stabbing his father to death and faces the electric chair if convicted. Eleven of the men believe the boy to be guilty; only one (Henry Fonda) has doubts. Can he manage to convince the others?
The court case provides only a framework, however. The film's greatness lies in its bringing-together of twelve different men who have never met each other before and the interaction of their characters as each man brings his own background and life experiences into the case. Thus, we have the hesitant football coach (Martin Balsam), the shy, uncertain bank clerk (John Fiedler), the aggressive call company director (Lee J. Cobb), the authoritative broker (E.G. Marshall), the self-conscious slum dweller (Jack Klugman), the solid, dependable painter (Edward Binns), the selfish salesman (Jack Warden), the calm, collected architect (Fonda), the thoughtful, observant older man (Joseph Sweeney), the racially bigoted garage owner (Ed Begley), the East European watchmaker (George Voskovec) and the beefcake advertising agent (Robert Webber) who has plenty of chat and little else.
Almost the entire film takes place in just one room, the jury room, where the men have retired to consider their verdict. The viewer finds him or herself sweating it out with the jury as the heat rises, literally and metaphorically, among the men as they make their way towards their final verdict. Interestingly, the jurors (apart from two at the end) are never named. They do not need to be. Their characters speak for them.
Henry Fonda is eminently suitable and excellently believable as the dissenter who brings home the importance of a jury's duty to examine evidence thoroughly and without prejudice. Joseph Sweeney is delightful as Juror No. 9, the quiet but shrewd old man who misses nothing, whilst E.G. Marshall brings his usual firmness and authority to the role of Juror No. 4. All the actors shine but perhaps the best performance is that of Lee J. Cobb as Juror No. 3, the hard, stubborn, aggressive, vindictive avenger who is reduced to breaking down when forced to confront the failure of his relationship with his own son.
Several of the stars of '12 Angry Men' became household names. Henry Fonda continued his distinguished career until his death in 1982, as well as fathering Jane and Peter. Lee J. Cobb landed the major role of Judge Henry Garth in 'The Virginian'. E.G. Marshall enjoyed a long, reputable career on film and t.v., including playing Joseph P. Kennedy in the 'Kennedy' mini-series. Jack Klugman was 'Quincy' whilst John Fiedler voiced Piglet in the 'Winnie The Pooh' films and cartoons.
Of the twelve, only John Fiedler, Jack Klugman and Jack Warden* are still alive. Although around the eighty mark, they are all still acting. The film was still available on video last year and it is shown on t.v. fairly frequently. I cannot recommend it too highly!
(*John Fiedler died June 2005. Jack Warden died July 2006.)
This film is superb, in fact as Shakespeare once said "Its the bees' knees".
The film captivates the audience from the beginning. Each of the twelve
jurors are introduced to us as they are introduced to themselves. The
characters are well draw out and individual, each with his own
The tension of the characters draws the audience in from the start. We imagine that the case is open and shut, 11 me saying guilty and 1 not. We feel the discomfort of Henry Fonda as the other characters belittle and mock how he can see any reasonable doubt in the case. But we also share his victories and the enthusiasm as he proceeds to refute or add doubt to the arguments for guilty and are captivated and draw in as other jurors begin to see doubt in the proceedings.
The audience can also see the arguments for guilty and wonder if Fonda's character is correct in saying that he doubts. Yet they also feel the shame of the characters as he disproves that a previously sound theory is iron tight, joining his side as members of the jury do.
On top of this they are wonderfully woven in human elements such as the misconceptions that influence people and the growing tension between different characters. This is brought to life even more by the amazing performances, Fonda, Lee J Cobb and Joseph Sweeney are of particular note.
I started watching this film on a bored relaxed laying about day but by the end i was on the edge of the seat with my hands on my knees feeling more tense than a politician on results day.
How a film should be made. Modern directors take note(thats ur telling off for the day) 10/10
........Films rarely get this uplifting and brilliant. I cannot think
of the last time I was so intrigued by the flawless plot, dialogue and
acting since 12 Angry Men. For such a simplistic story set in one jury
room, it is surprising that Sidney Lumet can drain you of all your
emotions and leave you on the edge of your seat with suspense, mystery,
and some of the best acting your bound to ever see grace the silver
When a boy is on last day of trial for killing his father in the heat of domestic arguments, 12 jury men are forced to present a verdict in which if guilty, is the one way ticket to the electric chair for the boy. When the jury men decide to quickly end the discussion and raise their hands to find out who thinks the boy is guilty, only one jury man (Henry Fonda) doesn't put his hand up. Trial and Character revelations, doubts, and possibilities follow.
So masterfully crafted is this film, that every time I watch it, only gets better. It includes some of the best character development I've ever seen. Sidney Lumet is an expert in this field and this is by far his greatest contribution to Hollywood history - one of the most important contributions to world cinema. However it was Henry Fonda and Lee J. Cobb who really made this film legendary, with their incredibly realistic performances. Casting was genius. And the dialogue was astoundingly riveting up until the brilliant finale. What really impressed me personally also was the camera angles and movements that made the film so suspenseful. Black and White made the film all the more powerful. And the music was minimal, which gave the film a more atmospheric experience, like you were their in the jury room with them - and you just feel that tension really built up as the movie proceeds.
This inexpensive film, with such a simple setting had the world talking, the academy awards nominations rolling and Henry Fonda at his complete best form. I have rarely been so hypnotized by a film - 'Lawrence Of Arabia' and 'It's A Wonderful Life' are other ones that come to mind. This is a definitive viewing for anyone who loves film. It sums up everything I love about film. Everything from a technical point of view to superb acting and a simple yet complex character driven story, it's platinum and is most definitely one of the greatest cinematic achievements of all time - bar none! A statue should be erected in Sydney Lumet's honor......
"Is it possible?" - Juror #8/Henry Fonda
This film deserves to be on anyone's list of top films. My problem is
that it is so perfect, so seamlessly polished, it is hard to appreciate
the individual excellences.
The acting is top notch. I believe that monologue acting is quite a bit simpler than real reactive ensemble acting. Most of what we see today is monologues pretending to be conversations. But in this film, we have utter mastery of throwing emotions. Once the air becomes filled with human essence, it is hard to not get soaked ourselves as the camera moves through the thick atmosphere. Yes, there are slight differences in how each actor projects (Fonda internally, Balsam completely on his skin...) but the ensemble presents one vision to the audience.
The writing is snappy too. You can tell it was worked and worked and worried, going through several generations. It is easy to be mesmerized by this writing and acting, and miss the rare accomplishment of the camera-work. This camera is so fluid, you forget you are in one room. It moves from being a human observer, to being omniscient, to being a target. It is smart enough to seldom center on the element of most importance, so expands the field to all men.
This is very hard. Very hard, to make the camera human. So much easier to do what we see today -- acknowledge the machinery and jigger with it. Do we have a filmmaker today who could do this?
Ted's Evaluation -- 4 of 3: Every cineliterate person should experience this.
I watched this film for the first time, when it was shown at about 1 o'clock in the morning. I made an effort to see it as it is rated as one of the best movies ever made, however I must admit that I watched it with a sense of reluctance as I'm not a great one for old "classics". This film blew me away however; how ignorant can I be about old films? How many other pre-1960s gems are there out there that I haven't seen? What strikes me most about this film is how progressive it is for its day. Indeed the issues this film makes about American society of the 1950s, still ring true for western society today. This film concerns twelve jurors debating the sentence of an 18 year old Puerto Rican boy who on the face of it, has no real alibi. However one man, played brilliantly by Henry Fonda, is ill-at ease putting a young boy to death without even debating his case, much to the despair of the other jurors. What follows is a brilliant piece of film making, slowly revealing many of the juror's complex characters to the audience as they react to Fonda's concerns with their own mix of metal scars, prejudices and insecurities. What especially struck me about this film is how ordinary most of the characters are, none of the jurors are shown to be especially bad men, indeed most are portrayed as honest everyman type people. The use of ordinary characters is the films master-stroke because as one by one they begin to question their initial instincts, the flaws of society that have let this Puerto Rican boy down are presented to the audience. Tragically it appears that many of the issues that were beginning to be discussed in the 1950s have only got worse. For me there is one immortal comment in this film: one of the jurors, a man in his 50s says that the youths of today have no respect and have changed so much for the worse since his day. How ironic is it that some grumpy old men of today who may not even of have been born when this films was made, still say exactly the same thing? Finally a quick look at the cast shows that Fonda aside many of the cast were only moderately successful after this film. I think that's a shame as everyone of these actors is excellent and plays their part in making it one of the best films of all time. However within the cast there are a couple of treats; look out for Jack Klugman (Quincy) and John Fieldler who is the voice of many of Disney's characters such as Piglet. I urge you all, if you have not yet seen this film, please do so now.
This once-in-a-generation masterpiece simply has no equal. The late 90's TV
remake was quite adequate though totally unnecessary and in the upshot
proved simply that updating a film for updating's sake is really an exercise
in futility. Even had it BEEN as good - so what?
There could be few, if ANY film-goers reading this who are unaware of the plotline and in any event many others have re-hashed this for you. The brilliance of the film is evident in so many aspects. To begin with, the ability to not only sustain interest but to command the viewer's attention for basically its entire running time within a setting of principally just one room, borders on the inspired. Whether or not that would actually work with TODAY'S audiences is another discussion! What we have here are twelve everyday Mr Joe Blows, summoned together on a jury panel to decide a defendant's guilt or innocence with regards to a murder charge. If you were to gather unto yourselves ANY twelve jurors at random, you would most likely be able to pinpoint the Henry Fonda, Lee Cobb, E. G. Marshall, Jack Warden etc etc amongst them! Their very "ordinariness" is where the film succeeded. Everyone can identify with at least ONE of those characters. Whether or not he may WANT to is a different matter. The thinker, the sensitive man, the arrogant bully, the opportunist, the mentally challenged loudmouth, the slimeball, the emotionally withdrawn, the sheep etc - they're all here! Welcome to society folks! I dislike society in the main - doubtless a reason I found this film to be such a revelation..even when I was barely into my teens!
12 ANGRY MEN also pinpoints the shortcomings of the law, how "truth" can be so intrinsically left-field and unintentionally flawed. Lumet, working within a minimal budget here, delivers unstinting brilliance in both direction, character portrayal and script interpretation. He had of course superb acting talent at his disposal although some of the most memorable performances are from the lesser players. Some have denounced Fonda's role as being acceptable rather than awesome. I think however he was to a great degree playing himself here, not to an audience. His, is a study in deliberation and logic not show-pony stuff, but hell that never WAS Fonda was it?
This is a great great movie, as is evidenced by the extremely high user-vote worldwide. IF you haven't seen it - you really should do something about that!
This is one of those movies where everything could go wrong. The story is as simple as it can be: 12 men are jurors on a open and shut murder trial, but one man thinks that another persons life deserves at least some thought on the matter and votes not guilty. From this point on we have 12 actors and a closed room. This could be the most boring film ever made. Lumet however is a master of mise-en-scene and provides a tense movie that keeps you locked on from the word "go". The dialogs are great and supported by incredibly talented actors. Joel Schumacher in Phone Booth needed to see this movie and draw a few ideas on how to make a character built, dialog driven movie. A must see for everyone.
The plot of12 Angry Men revolves around the murder trail of a Latino boy who
is accused of killing his father. The conviction of the boy would mean a
death sentence and the destiny of the boy's life is in the hands of twelve
male jurors of ranging personalities. The case seems open and shut with a
murder weapon and several witnesses to place the boy at the scene of the
crime. For eleven of the jurors the decision is apparent that the boy is
guilty but for one juror, Mr. Davis (Henry Fonda), the boy's life should
entail some discussion to eliminate any reasonable doubt the jurors may
have. As the film progresses the personalities of the jurors become apparent
and many underlying issues influence the guilty decision chosen by the
majority of the jurors.
The underlying issues are the complexity of the personalities of the jurors and the reasons why they have the motivation to feel and act the way they do. As the case unfolds further, more is learned about each juror individually. The personalities range from being a short-tempered loud mouth to a straight- laced accountant who never breaks a sweat. As the movie progresses much more is learned of the characters that exposes the intricacy of human nature and people's different personality traits.
This film is an excellent example of movie making that does not require elaborate sets to entertain the viewer. The majority of the film takes place in a jury room with the men never leaving the room from their deliberation responsibilities. The cast and dialogue make this film memorable and the film has some clear moral issues that are addressed. The main issue is that not everything is as it seems. With further analysis the understanding of a situation becomes more concrete enabling the men to make a solid decision that affects a young man's life. 12 Angry Men is a classic film that should not be missed.
Intense courtroom drama which has 12 very different people, all males, struggling with a murder case involving a young Puerto Rican boy that seems cut-and-dried. However, juror Henry Fonda does not believe it to be as sure-fire as it appears. He votes not guilty and what follows is a chain of events that will test the views, beliefs and thoughts of the other 11 members. Fonda is great, but Lee J. Cobb steals every scene (and that is not easy to do in a film like this). Ed Begley, Martin Balsam, Jack Warden, Jack Klugman, Joseph Sweeney, E.G. Marshall and John Fiedler are among the other individuals caught in a situation that is much more difficult than it appears on the surface. An excellent character-study that should be studied and embraced by all present and future film-makers. 5 stars out of 5.
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