What is your truth?
- 12 Angry Men review by Steve
The twelve men of the jury are in recess during the murder trial of a young Spanish American boy charged with killing his father. Eleven think he is guilty. A unanimous vote would condemn him to capital punishment. Only Juror 8, Henry Fonda, isn't convinced and stands in the way of his execution. He thinks they should at least talk about it a little.
Gradually, we become aware that the decisions of the other eleven were based on their assumptions and prejudices, or even just the dynamics within the jury room, and not on the facts of the case. Doubt passes around the table, from man to man, and the jurors must confront their preconceptions, or their own desperate guilt.
Henry Fonda brings his candid integrity to the role of the quiet hero, who demonstrates the importance of serving your conscience, even if it should isolate you. The rest of the American cast (mostly from tv) is expertly selected, and their ensemble work is wonderful. The script reveals their characters with precision and economy building to moments of intense dramatic conflict.
12 Angry Men demonstrates the precariousness of justice and the personal nature of truth. It is a film about citizenship and the responsibility of the individual. It is also an incredibly inspiring and moving experience. An astonishing debut from Sidney Lumet who makes a great virtue of the location within a single room.
4 out of 4 members found this review helpful.
Behind That Locked Door
- 12 Angry Men review by CH
“You can talk until your tongue is dragging on the floor!”
And talk they do, throughout Twelve Angry Men (1957). What can left to be said about this film version of Reginald Rose's play? It continues to hit one straight in the heart and in the forehead, which is what one of the jurors threatens to do to some of the others in that closed room. Even then, it sports a glugging watercooler whose paper conical cups ease their tempers as a humid summer's afternoon tacks towards a storm and an evening's verdict (despite which, many keep their ties in place).
What's more, one of them asks another, topically enough, “don't you ever sweat?”
This is a tale, in resonant black and white, told in retrospect as the diverse Jurors, each known only by their number, listen to architect Henry Fonda who elucidates his doubts about a murder which has happened three months ago in the midnight shadow of an elevated railway. Here is logic contending with prejudice, that social concern which was so often the mark of Sidney Lumet's films.
Mostly sporting ties and with ashtrays to hand upon their shared table, these men often lurch to contradict the others and have to be reminded that “we're talking about somebody's life here” (an ad man doodles and claims it helps him think).
One might wonder how it was filmed, for it does something interesting with time. These ninety-five minutes appear seamless, the stuff of one take, but daylight turns to dusk as the hours go by. A working definition of suspension of disbelief.
Lest it all appear technical, the dialogue includes such lines as the ad man's variant on run it up the flagpole: “let's put it out on the stoup and see if the cat laps it up.” As one of them sneezes, he is told, “your horn works, now try your lights!”
“He don't even speak good English.” “Doesn't speak.”
One could say more, but should not spoil it for those yet to see this masterpiece. Simply ignore Manny Farber's contemporary description which reduces it to Lumet's “bringing a hundred tiny details of schmaltzy and and soft-center 'liberalism' into a clean mosaic”. And Farber also derides it as “the shrill tingle of... couterfeit moviemaking”.
Watch this film and call upon others to bring a verdict upon Farber.
1 out of 1 members found this review helpful.