I read 12 Angry Men as a play years ago, and actually saw this at the time, but I don't remember it at all. Let's face facts – I was in eighth grade and could care less.
Boy, was I naive. Right from the opening scene you can tell as a viewer that the accused was not getting a fair trial. The judge seemed lackadaisical in his closing remarks to the jury. It seemed like he did not want to be there and could care less about the fate of the 18-year-old boy standing in front of him. I know you're a "man" when you turn 18 but I still refer to the accused as a boy. The troubled look in his face said it all.
Before I get into the film, a huge point to be made about this was the time period it took place in. People's views about race were made very publicly within the jury. Many of them seemed to have personal vendettas against different races.
They deemed the boy's Hispanic race to be slum and nothing more than that. This was during the civil rights era and all of that. We all know blacks weren't treated equally and this makes it apparent that it wasn't easy for any minority within the US. They'd much rather lock them up and throw away the key or execution than give them a fair trial.
Tensions seemed very high the second the jury went into the private room to hold their own little court session. It was a very hot day outside and the fan wasn't working nor would the windows open. No man wanted to spend more time than what they thought would be efficient to determine the verdict. Some were even talking about their plans for right after thinking it would be a sure bet they'd be out of there soon with the whole night ahead of them. They were wrong.
From there on out this film turned into a textbook example of sociology. Everyone didn't deviate from the norm of the group… All except one person, Juror #8. The rest of the jury was outraged and deemed him a radical. They could not believe two things.
One, that he could find the accused not guilty, and second, that he went against the group norm. He did not try to conform one bit.
Instead, he stood up in grand fashion and presented his doubts to his fellow jurors. Slowly but surely his grand scheme was working. He did not know for sure whether he was guilty or not guilty, but he had a reasonable doubt and that's all about what the justice system stands for.
At some point during juror #8's campaign he started to win over people. Not by any flashy arguments or techniques, though. Just the cold hard facts that the rest of the juror thought could not be disputed. He tore apart every one of those facts and was making a lot of sense.
It's so interesting when you bring a group of 12 random people into a setting like a jury and see what you come up with. All of these men, with their different backgrounds and make-ups, they all brought something special to the table that was vital to their key decision.
Once #8 manages to turn a few people to his side, at that moment is when things really started to heat up. Tempers were flaring and weren't about to be cooled down anytime soon.
From there until the ending is a wonderful roller coaster ride that you have to see to cherish. Some of the best writing that I've ever seen. The dialogue is so crisp and sharp throughout, even though it’s just 90 minutes of men just talking.
These actors did a terrific job of bringing the words to life. All of them had such spark and energy. I could see the tension in their eyes, pretty damn good subtext.
The director, Sidney Lumet is a godsend. He did such a masterful job with the entire film as a whole. The camera angles, the lighting of the room, placement of the actors, etc. A true triumph in cinema history.
I know there is a 1997 adaptation that was made, but I would love to see a 2012 take on this film. With all of the crazy technology we have at our fingertips it would be very unique to see a modern day spin on this. Perhaps the jury could use Facebook or even Twitter to help solve a stagnant crime. Who knows?
All in all, 12 Angry Men is a great film that needs to be watched and talked about.
9.5 out of 10
12 Angry Men is available on DVD for your viewing pleasure. It was just recently re-released in the Criterion Collection format in both DVD and Blu-Ray. The entire movie is also available on YouTube - see the above attached YouTube video, or click here to watch it over there.
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