12 Angry Men (1957) Poster

(1957)

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10/10
Excellent
vukodlak1 July 2000
Warning: 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 convince.

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.
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10/10
No bombs, no car chases but edge of the seat stuff none the less
Andrew Devonshire18 September 2002
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 personality.

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
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9/10
Simple but great.
juho6923 October 2004
'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.)
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10/10
If you only ever see one Black and White movie, make this it.
Thelightbulb22 September 2005
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.
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The over-used term "classic movie" really comes into its own here!
uds312 August 2002
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!
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No Dissonance
tedg26 April 2001
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.
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10/10
Should be in everyone's top ten list of greatest films of ALL TIME.....
Freddy Levit11 January 2005
........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 screen!

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
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What a Character-Study Is Meant to Be.
tfrizzell8 June 2002
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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9/10
Good script, great dialogs and a set of actors who would be the envy of the world
jomipira1 September 2003
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.
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10/10
Terrific drama with some of the greatest actors in cinematic history
Kristine29 December 2006
Gosh, I don't know how many times I studied this play and performed it in high school, not to mention how many television shows had an episode that was inspired by 12 Angry Men. It was always a great drama because of the raw human emotions that were so true and remain timeless, this play will never be dated. I couldn't wait to see this movie when I saw it at the video store and it was the first movie I slipped into the DVD player. First off, I was incredibly impressed with the credits, we not only had Henry Fonda, we had Lee J. Cobb in the cast! This movie was so well performed and such a treasure, god, I couldn't ever say any words to justify it. I've done this a million times, but here is another summary of what 12 Angry Men is all about.

12 jurors are about to make a decision about a murder case, over all it seems like an open and shut case with tons of evidence that would make any good man look guilty, an 18 year old boy is about to be put to death if convicted. 11 of the men vote guilty, only one vote holds them back and they have to discuss the trial once again due to one vote being not guilty. Jurour #8 refuses to just jump to conclusions and brings up incredible possibilities that can always make a man think of "reasonable doubts", one by one the jurors begin to see the points he is making, except for one stubborn #3 who would rather just pull the switch to the chair himself.

12 Angry Men is a timeless tale that could either be told very badly, i.e. 7th Heaven, or incredibly well and bring out terrific performances like Henry and Lee did. Actually, the whole cast was terrific, there wasn't a performance that was off key, movies like this are so needed in Hollywood today, it was so simple, but added so much for a 30 minute play. Please, if you have any taste, you will truly enjoy 12 Angry Men and have a great appreciation for it!

10/10
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8/10
A Classic not to be Missed
misha-wilkin17 March 2003
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.
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Leave your prejudices outside the door
Robbie-1927 January 1999
Warning: Spoilers
One of the finest ensemble pieces of film ever made. 12 jurors debate, argue and sweat it out to decide the guilt or innocence of a teenager accused of murdering his father. This was Sidney Lumet's directorial debut. This film is almost entirely set in one room for 90 or so minutes, as the valiant dozen play cat and mouse with the accused's life. To 11 jurors it's an open and shut case - guilty. The defendant's life lays in the hands of one liberal juror (Henry Fonda). The film meticulously examines the facts of the case, as each juror provides reasons for their decisions. Fonda struggles to convince his fellow jurors that there is room for reasonable doubt, but he's working against dubious priorities and deeply-ingrained prejudices. Within the confines of a hot and angry room Fonda fights his corner, whilst highlighting both his open-minded and fair beliefs with the frailties and failures of his fellow defendants. Although unconvincing in detail, the film is absorbing, and made the more remarkable as it is almost entirely set in one room and yet holds the viewers attention. The acting is magnificent; the 12 actors are essentially the movie. A classic film, not using fancy plots or effects, but the talents of actors. A great piece of film making and one of the best films coming out of the US. Worth watching, if not just for analysing human weaknesses.
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10/10
A classic.
MovieAddict201623 November 2005
NOTE: Apparently, some fan of "Lord of the Rings" reported my review to the IMDb Admin because I said "12 Angry Men" is (and I quote) "...better than LotR." And for some reason, IMDb actually deleted my review - even though it had over 20 helpful reviews (out of about 26).

So, to please that angry little insecure fan, I've decided to remove all LotR references in this review from here onwards. Enjoy, scumball.

--

"My Review of 12 Angry Men"

or

"WHY THIS MOVIE IS 10x BETTER THAN THE LORD OF THE RINGS."

"12 Angry Men" is pure, unadulterated American courtroom classic that has been shown in schools across America for decades. I'm not Sidney Lumet's biggest fan ("Serpico" is overrated), but he is masterful behind the camera here.

It's classic, to say the least. But it's also a wonderful motion picture.

It saddens me that this is number twenty-one on the Internet Movie Database's top 250, yet the three "Lord of the Rings" movies are somewhere in the top ten. Disgraceful, how far culture has sloped downwards over the year. A UK list of the best musicals of all time was recently completed. Guess what was ahead of "Singin' in the Rain" and "My Fair Lady"? "Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Musical." Mmm-hmm...I'm sure.

I recommend this to anyone who thinks classic cinema is boring.

Here's a classic, and here's one of many films that is put to disgrace by these newer-age lists of "best movies." I believe many of the people voting otherwise should take into account the fact that they might enjoy "X2" very much (as I did!) but that doesn't necessarily mean it is the 120th best film of all time!
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10/10
From guilty to no guilty,,,,,,,this movie is true masterpiece.
Ali Ilyas1 May 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Some movies are not for certain period of time but are eternal because of there perpetual topic. Murder is one of the oldest crimes in this world but murder of your own father is something astonishing. The movie is about a teenager accused of murdering his own father in an open case where all the indictments and witnesses are against him. The jury is called for verdict, and all of them are unanimously agreed on conviction. But one of the juror thinks to contemplate a bit on witnesses before giving a verdict as a life of teenager is on line, and from there the true brilliance of this movie begins as the way juror # 8 (Henry Fonda) unfolds all the witnesses are based on assumptions and anticipations . The way he demonstrates the happening of incident based on accusation is one of the true essence of this movie and in the end all jurors are convinced that "No guilty" is right verdict to be passed. The way story moves is marvelous ostentation of director Sidney Lumet's true brilliance. The movie is nicely written by Reginald Rose and is beautifully portrayed by all the actors especially Henry Fonda and Lee J Cobbs. This movie is truly a masterpiece and its impression will not be easy to diminish.
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10/10
The All-Time Great Liberal Agenda Movie
evanston_dad5 July 2005
I defy anyone to watch this movie and not be completely absorbed in the group dynamics on display. I could take points off for the overly tidy and convenient script with its TV-movie ending or some of the less subtle methods through which director Sidney Lumet drives home his points. But with a cast as uniformly excellent as this, why quibble? Henry Fonda is just the person to play the liberal everyman, an extension of his Tom Joad character from "The Grapes of Wrath." E.G. Marshall is excellent as Fonda's most formidable opponent; cool-headed and logical, he's the only holdout who bases his verdict on facts instead of emotions. Lee J. Cobb's performance wears thin, and his character is the most poorly written. Ed Begley is almost too good in his role, so revolting is his character. Jack Klugman and Jack Warden register in smaller roles as well.

This movie conveys the sweaty, tension-filled atmosphere of a stifling jury room but never feels oppressive, thanks to Lumet's fluid direction. My favorite moment comes when Fonda begins counting off paces around the jury table (a key piece of evidence hinges on this), and the camera drops to floor level and follows his feet as he does so. Choices like this prevent Lumet's film from ever being static or stagy.

An important film and a great one. If you haven't already seen it, put it at the top of your list.

Grade: A+
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9/10
A timeless film that shows the flaws in the jury system
calvinnme19 February 2017
... the main flaw being that everybody brings their own life experiences and history into the jury room with them, no matter how hard they try to be impartial.

Here you have a trial of a young boy who supposedly stabbed his father to death. When the jurors go back to deliberate on the case, ALL but one lone man played with a quiet courage by Henry Fonda states not guilty and the rest of the film is about trying to get them to his side. Quite amazing movie if you ask me. Fonda's case is not that the boy is innocent, but that the threshold of reasonable doubt has not been reached. The trick in this film is that it never leaves the jury room. You have no idea of what the defendant, the prosecuting attorney, or the defense attorney were like other than retroactively through the words of the jurors.

Writing this good just can't be ignored. Reginald Rose's screenplay is absolutely brilliant. Not only are the characters of twelve individuals indelibly implanted in your brain within the limited time span of about 100 minutes, but Rose accomplishes this feat without undue speechifying or pontificating about injustice or the failures of the jury system or expositional dialogue. The characters personalities come out in the course of the film and are not "set up" in the first half hour, (as in having the jurors explain to each other what their occupations and backgrounds are) as is the case with mediocre screenplays. As for the acting it is true ensemble greatness. All twelve cast members are excellent, although if you put a gun to my head and forced me to say who was best I'd express a partiality for Lee J Cobb as the toughest nut to crack for acquittal and E.G. Marshall as a juror who is all logic and no emotion other than arrogance. And Sidney Lumet's first film just may be his most fast paced. The hundred minutes whiz by! Not a dull stretch to be seen anywhere.

And yes, these are twelve white men judging a Puerto Rican boy, and yes Henry Fonda violated many classic rules of jury behavior when he introduced items into the discussion that were not official evidence, but this was 60 years ago and it IS a movie. So just suspend your beliefs and try to enjoy the art of the thing -the riveting dialogue, the character studies that don't choke each other out, and the brilliant camera-work that manages to make the room seem increasingly smaller so that you can appreciate the claustrophobia that must be setting in with the jurors as deliberations wear on and get more heated.
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10/10
a tight ball of male-dominated classic cinema
MisterWhiplash6 March 2006
It's tough sometimes to translate a stage production- which 12 Angry Men essentially is- into a feature film, with in this case one cramped room and a dozen characters with totally varied ideals. In a way this is like the textbook example, however, of how to do a film like this. You see how the situation unfolds into something more, about the act of telling a story and finding all the pieces. That it has such a powerhouse of an ensemble doesn't hurt it at all, and the little surprises in how the casts acts and reacts works great on repeat viewings. The basic premise only needs brief mention, as the 12 men (totally angry may be disputed by some, though I'm sure not one is left without raising their voice), all white, are judging the case of a Hispanic charged with killing his father. The deliberation room becomes a kind of boiler room where Henry Fonda's juror #11, the only un-sure one, sets the stage for a something more to be revealed- human nature when on a judgment day, with all its intelligence, ignorance, hate, and seeking objectivism.

Sidney Lumet, on his very first feature-film, does a really professional (in a good way) job of directing the picture, by which a) letting the actors, who among the great lot include Lee J Cobb, John Fiedler, E.G. Marhall, Martin Balsam, Jack Klugman, Ed Begley, and in maybe the most under-rated role of the 'old man', Joseph Sweeney, just do their work and try to just make sure no one over-steps their ability in their strengths; b) using the atmosphere to high effect. Like he would later do with Network, Lumet uses the camera to add some level of subjectivity to the storytelling, being careful with choosing close-ups but using them very wisely (i.e. a surprise close-up on Sweeney), and here and there making it feel like the walls are just closing in a little more. But, at the same time, Lumet's making a studio picture, with the all-around good-guy Henry Fonda (in one of his best roles), and dealing with a story that's, when it comes down to it, just the details of a crime examined over. But the real strength of the film comes in a quality that it shares with Rashomon (different in structure to be sure), that the idea of looking for the truth is just a guise in a way to examine the people who are looking at what the truth is. It's a nifty movie that has deservedly stayed firm through the decades, not showing its age bad at all.
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8/10
Benefit of Hindsight
mkfreeberg7 August 2005
Warning: Spoilers
(Spoilers) I really liked the message of the movie: A lot of times things that look crystal clear at first glance, upon deeper inspection, aren't so clear. The acting was top-notch all-around, especially with Juror #9. The product ends up being not very preachy, which is a considerable achievement given that it's built entirely around a simple parable.

With the benefit of hindsight, though, one can see a few things about this that I personally find really disturbing.

The question that drives the movie is whether the jurors have properly awarded the defendant the benefit of any reasonable doubt, and as the climax approaches, the attention given to this reaches a fevered pitch. Left behind in the dust, is the equally critical question of whether the defendant is really guilty. There's a scene early on when Jack Warden, the juror who just wants to get the voting over with so he can watch a ball game, meets Henry Fonda in the washroom. The last two lines in that scene discuss the possibility that the boy may be acquitted, even though he is guilty. Fonda says something to the effect of "that very well may be" or some such, and to my recollection this is the last time this possibility is even considered.

The jury may have released a murderer onto the streets. You can make the argument that with the presence of reasonable doubt, this was their job. I agree. But as Henry Fonda walks down the courthouse steps to resume his everyday life as an architect, would it really then be fitting to have the happy "a wrong has been righted" swelling-orchestra music, as our hero walks proudly among his fellow citizens with his head held high? Doubt or no, conviction or no, this kind of peace-of-mind is not lying in wait for you after your last day on a real jury. There are jurors who want it anyway, and because of that, will not convict anyone. They have seen this movie, and want to be Henry Fonda. I've served with them. It's a pretty serious problem.

There is a short speech given by Fonda shortly after he is revealed to be the one juror who wants to acquit. Several times in the speech he makes the point that the defendant is poor, has had a rough background, and has been beaten up a lot. It is not entirely clear where he is going with this, since the movie is supposed to be about what is reasonable doubt, and how the doubt applies regardless of economic class. There is at least one other juror who wants to convict because the defendant is poor; does Fonda mean to say with a defendant who was wealthier, he himself would have voted to convict? That doesn't seem likely at all. But then why bring it up? It means something to other jurors, but it isn't supposed to mean anything to Fonda. The only way it could support any of Fonda's arguments, is if he was making decisions based on the way those decisions made him feel about himself, rather than based on the evidence. This is something jurors aren't supposed to do.

Four years after this movie was made, the Supreme Court defined the Exclusionary Rule in Mapp v. Ohio. So by this time, you weren't supposed to convict anyone unless you knew they were guilty beyond any reasonable doubt, and in addition to that, if you knew too much, then you still couldn't convict. During the sixties, conviction became such an unlikely goal even when the evidence seemed compelling, that a lot of District Attorneys refused to make arrests even though they knew a suspect posed a significant danger to society.

By the seventies, Americans were so fed-up with the "justice system failing us" that they began turning politicians out of office in bulk, hoping against hope they could fix what was broken before their own children were murdered or their wives were raped. Between Vietnam and Watergate, this was a third salvo against our fragile faith in government, and it was an erosion of our trust that we don't talk about too much today.

What really concerns me is that a little while after this film was made, with the poorest Americans being forced to live among violent people and thus becoming increasingly interested in vigilantism, suddenly we had a huge surge in movies about "Taking the law into your own hands." Dirty Harry, Death Wish, and countless made-for-TV projects. In summary, the pendulum swung in one direction, then a few years later, the other. Hollywood got to make money both times.

I have trouble getting completely behind this film because it's a concentrated effort, ultimately a successful one, to get that pendulum swinging wildly. If we spent that relatively short amount of time, just fifteen years or so, leaving "revolution" out of it and reforming our justice system in baby steps, the mistakes of the past could have been avoided. I do not know if it was possible to fix what was broken back then, by doing this -- convictions weren't always carefully considered back in the 1950's & earlier. But a lot of innocent people would be alive today if all those violent felons, in subsequent years, were arrested like they should have been.

I would say, if you're going to serve on a jury, by all means rent this because it's a very meticulous and passionate reminder of your civil duty, it makes some great points, and everything in this movie is highest-quality. But also on your required-viewing list would be Primal Fear, the Richard Gere movie. Better yet, watch that one last, so the final scene really sticks in your mind.

Nobody should be serving on a jury, if they can't seriously consider the consequences of releasing people who are really guilty of violent crimes.
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8/10
Finely tuned
Robert J. Maxwell11 November 2003
Warning: Spoilers
First of all, what a cast! Fonda doesn't seem like much of a New Yorker, but the rest of the cast reads like a Who's Who in New York movies. All of them except Sweeney and Voscovek went on to lengthy careers in character and support roles.

The plot comes from a TV show and is very tightly written. There's hardly a wasted word or an unnecessary gesture. This has its drawbacks because it imposes a dramatic frame on the characters and the development. There's not much sense of "real life" here. Everything fits together too neatly for that. But if events follow earlier events with a logic that is a bit obvious, it's forgivable because the screenplay is done so well. Like "Stagecoach," it may be mechanical but it's as finely tuned as a good wristwatch.

Also more or less unavoidable in a short movie dealing with a dozen often conflicting characters is the reduction in their complexity. Each is a stereotype. They practically wear sweatshirts with logos on them. "I AM A SHALLOW AD MAN." "BORED MARMALADE SALESMAN HERE." "KICK ME, I AM AN IGNORANT RACIST." They are capable of changing their opinions but they show only one side of their characters.

A third unfortunate quality in the script is that it is imbued with what Tom Wolfe referred to as "nostalgie de la bou" -- a kind of admiration for the lowbrow. Pauline Kael made the same observation back in the early 60s in an essay called "Fantasies of the Art House Audience." What it boils down to is a dislike of the middle-class. Fonda is an architect, a professional. The other good guys in the movie are members of minority groups or ordinary working stiffs with slum backgrounds.

The two most repulsive villains (Ed Begley and Lee J. Cobb) are self-made men who run their own successful businesses. The rufescent Begley has a line, something like, "I got ten factories going to pot while we're talking' here." Cobb brags about how he built up his delivery business starting out with nothing. A third dummy is a SALESMAN -- of marmalade! (Yukk.)

Okay. That gets pretty much all of the weaknesses out of the way. The pluses outweigh the minuses by exactly two short tons. The acting is almost impossible to improve upon, not surprisingly. It's unfair to single out Jack Warden and Martin Balsam for their performances but I'll do it anyway.

The photography, by Boris Kaufman, is perceptive and adds to the tension, the feeling of claustrophobia. Especially memorable is the scene in which most of the jurors are standing together, there is a rumble of thunder, and a shadow falls gloomily over the group. It's a small touch but palpable.

Lumet manages to suggest New York City effectively in this crowded room, practically the only set. (There is a shot at the end that is done on the steps of the real Courthouse.) Lumet's direction makes the most of his actors' talents. The pauses in their arguments last just long enough for us to take a few breaths.

Rose's script avoids an easy ending. Yes, there is reasonable doubt enough for the verdict to turn out as it does, but there is no dramatic introduction of crucial evidence to demonstrate that the defendant is innocent. Did he do it? We don't know. Suppose the kid actually did it and gets away with it? Fonda is twice challenged on that point -- once at the table and once in the men's room -- and in neither instance does he have a reply.

Overall, it's a marvelous movie, a lesson in acting, directing, writing, and shooting. The recent updated version has been made politically correct but is not an improvement over this original. See it if you have the chance.
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10/10
Beyond a reasonable doubt
jotix1008 February 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Having seen the film before, we decided to take another look recently when it showed up on a cable channel. This Sidney Lumet 1957 film still packs a lot of power, even though times have changed in the way our justice system works. The screen play by Reginald Rose shows his brilliant insight into human beings that are called to sit as jurors in a murder case.

If you haven't seen the film, perhaps you don't want to read any further.

It's 1957 when this case goes to court. We watch the accused man staring toward the panel in whose hands his fate rests. The jury is all male. We get to know that a public defendant was appointed to defend the accused man. We realize he hasn't done a great job, as most of the men in the jury room are convinced this boy is guilty before he has been proved innocent.

We watch as the men are settling into their chairs around the deliberating table, and how a juror is standing by the window looking toward the streets below, lost in thought. It's stifling in the room. Those were the days of not having air conditioned all over, so these men are sweating in the uncomfortable room during one of the worst days of the summer.

As the men proceed to have a preliminary vote, juror number eight casts a 'not guilty' vote that shocks the room. How dare he go against the majority? Who is he to stand in the way of what seems to be an open and shut case? This guy is guilty! Thus begins the deliberations in which all these men bring their own prejudices and biases to determine if the boy will go to the electric chair, which by all appearances, seems to be the case here. It's because of one decent man that doesn't mind facing the rest that we get to know why the accused couldn't have done the murder the authorities say he committed. In the process the jurors will get to understand the meaning of justice.

This drama owes Henry Fonda a debt of gratitude. We can't think of any other actor playing this juror. Mr. Fonda exudes kindness and he is the only person in the room that is not convinced beyond a reasonable doubt the boy has killed his own father. Not only did he make a contribution as an actor, but also helped produced the movie.

Lee J. Cobb, one of the great American actors of the last century, is seen as a juror that sees in the accused young man his own estranged son, who he hasn't seen in a couple of years, having left home because of the conflict with the old man. Mr. Cobb is just the opposite of Mr. Fonda, and he gives an intense performance to show us this man in turmoil. The rest of the cast is wonderful. Each one has his own moment to shine.

There is not a single moment that rings false in the movie. In reading a couple of comments about "12 Angry Men", some people marvel there were no women in the jury, or that the accused man's case hasn't been presented by the defense attorney in a more effective way. We have to remember first of all, the times in which the action takes place, and the fact that being a poor man, the accused man has been given an attorney who was obviously not interested in his defense. The young man being from a minority migrant group didn't elicit sympathy from these jurors, at all, which might have been the prosecution's goal in going along with the selection.

This is a movie that should be seen by anyone serving in a jury in a court of justice. Mr. Lumet and Mr. Rose have created a timeless film that will be the standard in which everything else is judged.
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10/10
An Anti-Cinema Classic . Know What I Mean ?
Theo Robertson9 January 2003
What a bloody stupid idea for a cinema film ! Adapt a teleplay set entirely in one studio bound location , written in real time with absolutely no cinema appeal whatsoever ! Me ? I wouldn`t have touched this script with a barge pole if I was a producer which just goes to show why - Only very very occasionally - some people deserve to be film producers while - Only very very occasionally - people like myself don`t . 12 ANGRY MEN is a masterpiece , maybe not in the way APOCALYPSE NOW or FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING are cinematic masterpieces , but it`s still a masterpiece of high drama

Despite being based on a play Lumet does bring some outstanding directorial flourishes to the film . Look at he scene where the camera cuts from one raised hand to another to an empty space that has a raised hand gingerly creeping into the frame , or the scene where the characters become more and more disgusted with Ed " Know what I mean " Begley`s reactionary diatribe . Please forgive Reginald Rose`s ever so slightly bleeding heart liberal subtext or a couple of unlikely occurances like the scene with the knife , or the fact that jury discussions are nothing like this in real life because even more thought went into this script as went into MEMENTO . This is a classic film and one of the few ones I`ve awarded 10 points to

One last point: If you have never seen 12 ANGRY MEN how on earth can you describe yourself as a film fan ?
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10/10
Is "12 Angry Men" a GREAT or NON GREAT movie? Gentlemen of the jury, your verdict ...
ElMaruecan8214 March 2011
Juror #1, the foreman (Martin Balsam, football coach): "Well, I won't be too technical, or make a long speech … it's just that it's a one-set film, so it's new and risky, because you know, dialogs are not enough, we need …uh … the thrills … and it goes slowly in the beginning but progressively, it's like the jury room becomes smaller, and the faces bigger. I really felt the tense and suffocating atmosphere ... And what an explosive climax, I could hardly breathe … I know it's strange, but the direction, well, the movie is one hell of a thriller … I, well, my verdict is clear: GREAT MOVIE"

Juror #2 (John Fiedler, bank clerk): "I don't know. It's an excellent film, served by great performances. Every character was convincing, so were their interactions. I can't find any flaw, for me, there's nothing to add, and nothing to remove. It is a GREAT MOVIE"

Juror #3 (Lee J. Cobb, businessman): "I told you why this movie is great, it's just … thought provoking, everything and I mean everything looked like it would have been this kind of preachy film with a good-hearted hero and simple-minded antagonists who just want to be vindictive. But this is an intelligent film which, even at the end, makes you question if the kid is guilty or not. Because it has nothing to do with punishment, it's about justice ... without any prejudice, and that deserves respect, yes sir! No doubt for me … GREAT MOVIE"

Juror #4 (E.G. Marshall, stockbroker): "First of all, it's an excellent examination of all the subtle nuances that enrich a male adult demography, played with such believability every one could identify with one of the jurors. Secondly, the writing was intellectually gripping and emotionally engaging and I would add: respectful of the viewer's intelligence. The direction was excellent and created a feeling of growing claustrophobia guided by a very clever use of focal lenses, a credit to Sidney Lumet. Last but not least, it's about the noble concept of justice and presumption of innocence: "12 Angry Men" delivers a brilliant, intelligent, and universally inspiring message. To conclude, I can say I had the privilege to watch a GREAT MOVIE"

Juror #5 (Jack Klugman, the man from the slum): "What else to say? I second the idea that it's a powerful drama demonstrating how prejudices poison the heart of our civilization, and I believe this is one of the few films that should be screened everywhere in the world as a powerful lesson for tolerance. My verdict is: GREAT MOVIE"

Juror #6 (Edward Binns, painter): "A movie that younger and future generations should watch and respect. These are movies with no special effects, no big-star cast, no big explosions, no flashy cars and no sexy girls. You have a honest, simple movie featuring ordinary men, but the result is so impacting it should be appreciated by any movie lover, regardless of his or her age. Anyway, GREAT MOVIE"

Juror #7 (Jack Warden, salesman): "Come on, everyone is using big words and noble concepts, but for me, this movie is just damn entertaining. Hey admit it, the dialogs, the way opposite characters interact, create a lot of anxiety but is also very fun to watch, sometimes, well … I think you can say anything, but without entertainment, a film is worthless, and the movie could've been a bore, just all talk and no walk, but it wasn't, it worked for me ... GREAT MOVIE"

Juror #8 (Henry Fonda, architect): "This movie invites us to explore our convictions and question the way they influence our judgments. Justice is done by men, blindly and implacably, this is why punishment must be beyond any doubt, and when you have what appears to be an open-and-shut case that progressively reveals some flaws as we go deeper in the subject, well, this says a lot about the negative impact of subjectivity when it comes to justice, and how we should be careful about the consequences of our thoughts, our words, our acts. "12 Angry Men" is a humanistic inspiration for those who have faith in justice. GREAT MOVIE"

Juror #9 (Joseph Sweeney, retired): "This is a fantastic character study illustrating how convincingness is often driven by the personality. It's an incredible illustration of the way a few people can monopolize the talk and how a silent majority is eager to follow the ones who aggressively express their thoughts, and the courage it takes to be the lone dissenter and how using a constructive, polite and logical answer can destroy something taken for granted. While watching "12 Angry Men" I understood that a consensus, when rapidly built, means that the truth must be elsewhere. And one truth for sure, this is a GREAT MOVIE"

Juror #10 (Ed Begley, garage owner): "I hate the patronizing way some left-wing good-hearted people adore this film, this has nothing to do with politics, truth or justice, it's about manipulation of your thoughts by pushing the right emotional button … you missed the point, and that's the beauty of the film, you're all easily fooled. Not for the reasons you think, but it's a GREAT MOVIE"

Juror #11 (Joseph Voskovek, watchmaker): "No need to be American to appreciate the beauty of this film, it's about our deepest convictions. It's about the humanistic concept of reasonable doubt which can save even a guilty soul ... because life is valuable and justice is not vengeance. GREAT MOVIE"

Juror #12 (Robert Webber, advertising executive): "Wow, what I can say, it's not an exact science you know … you can find a reason A to appreciate it, a reason B or C … let's just say that the 'sigma' of these reasons, explains why it's an incredible film and as my fellow jurors said, why "12 Angry Men" is a GREAT MOVIE"
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7/10
Great Film Reflecting American Cultural Changes
J. M. Verville20 October 2004
12 Angry Men is a terrific film that reflects a lot of the past problems and the proposed solutions of immigration, youth violence, and of course, overcoming one's own background and discrimination. The film surprised me in how progressive it was, and the ending social conclusions that it reached.

In the film you can see clearly form a rift between the upper class, conservatives who are unwilling to change and the progressives who are proposing change for the better of all of us; this film, deep down, is a very class conscious and socially conscious film about discrimination and the deep lines it had in American society in 1957.

Although the film's portrayal is sometimes overly simplistic, drawing a "stubborn, pig-headed" conservative versus "righteous, just" progressive, one can find that this was very much so a necessary film for its' time. In many ways, it is a work that was socially far advanced.

Also what is interesting is the fact that it is a film that is done with great simplicity; some actors, and a room... It relies greatly upon the pure talent of the actors, and the great direction of Sidney Lumet -- this film is truly unique due to the true minimalism it embraces in its' production tactics, yet this is something that could easily go unnoticed due to the incredible quality of the film.
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10/10
An absolute must for anyone who considers themselves a film buff
MartinHafer13 April 2007
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!!!
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6/10
A Very Flawed classic
bkoganbing3 September 2005
When I was younger I thought 12 Angry Men was a near perfect ensemble film with a great group of male players. At that time in those sexist fifties women had an automatic out from jury duty. It was not unusual to have all male juries as we have here.

Then I served on a few juries and my concepts changed. One of the key scenes of the film is when Henry Fonda produces a switchblade knife exactly like the weapon the young perpetrator allegedly used in the stabbing death of his father. The second that Fonda produced that knife, someone should have yelled for a mistrial.

In all 50 states of the United States of America, a standard jury instruction is that the jury is to decide the guilt or innocence of a defendent on the evidence presented at trial. Jurors are free to come and go until they are sequestered for the verdict. But they are instructed not to go near the crime scene or gather ANY independent evidence.

I remember being on jury duty and assigned on a case where the crime took place in an apartment that was one block away from one of two routes to a BMT subway stop that took me to work. And those same subways also took me to downtown Brooklyn and the court house. I made it a point to take the IRT to court for the next two weeks while the trial went on to avoid the temptation of going over to the crime scene.

It was a great dramatic effect, but totally at odds with our legal system. I can't believe that something that elementary was left in a film that was purported to be a realistic look at jury deliberations.

The juries I was on did debate and in some cases quibble over all the points of the trial. They were a good cross section of the breed Brooklynus Americanus just as in 12 Angry Men. If you watch Law and Order you know how hard the prosecutors job is to get 12 people to convict.

Still it's a wonderful group of players that participated here. Henry Fonda and Lee J. Cobb are the biggest names in the cast. But others like Robert Webber, John Fiedler, Martin Balsam, and Jack Klugman got their first real notice in this film.

Jack Klugman's portrayal was a particular favorite of mine among the group. He's from the same slum background as the defendent and some of the knowledge he has from that environment makes for the most compelling argument for the defendent's innocence.

We should be thankful that Sidney Lumet assembled and directed the find cast he did.
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