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12 Angry Men
Crime, Drama, Mystery
IMDB rating:
Sidney Lumet
Martin Balsam as Juror #12
John Fiedler as Juror #12
Lee J. Cobb as Juror #12
E.G. Marshall as Juror #12
Jack Klugman as Juror #12
Edward Binns as Juror #12
Jack Warden as Juror #12
Henry Fonda as Juror #12
Joseph Sweeney as Juror #12
Ed Begley as Juror #12
George Voskovec as Juror #12
Robert Webber as Juror #12
Storyline: The defense and the prosecution have rested and the jury is filing into the jury room to decide if a young man is guilty or innocent of murdering his father. What begins as an open-and-shut case of murder soon becomes a detective story that presents a succession of clues creating doubt, and a mini-drama of each of the jurors' prejudices and preconceptions about the trial, the accused, and each other. Based on the play, all of the action takes place on the stage of the jury room.
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Good script, great dialogs and a set of actors who would be the envy of the world
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.
Great Classic
12 Angry Men is as simple as it is profound, and as bare-boned as it is a showcase of true camera-work and directional complexity. It is as much a film about the justice system in America as it is a film about people; a film that lets the viewer into a single room for 90 minutes (the film moves forward quicker than real time) and examines the quirks, insecurities, prejudices and glaring background differences of twelve different characters.

The film begins in a courtroom as a murder case is coming to a close. The judge informs the twelve jurors of their duty as though it were just another day in his life, as though the defendant (an 18-year old street kid) has already been proved guilty. In general, nobody in the film expects the potential (and probable) difficulties that the viewer anticipates externally. It is an "open and shut case" as the remarkable, unnamed juror (played by Lee J. Cobb) states in the first ten minutes.

Of course it isn't, otherwise 12 Angry Men would be an "open-and-shut" film. Opening credits play over an empty room which gradually fills up as the jurors takes their seats and prepare for the ballot. Over this time, we see windows being opened, negotiations taking place and pleasantries exchanged. If these 12 men agree that the c12 Angry Men (1957) by Sidney Lumet - Unsung Filmsase presents enough evidence to show that the crime had in fact been committed, then the verdict will be guilty. But if there is any room for what the judge calls "reasonable doubt", then the verdict changes.

Each character in this film is entirely different. It almost feels as though each has been handpicked to take part in a sort of experiment – and it very much feels like we are watching one unfold. Each man represents something unalike. With one man's decision not to conform, or at least not to believe everything that was discussed in the courtroom, 12 Angry Men erupts. Gradually, we start to understand these men; first, we are let it on some of their social backgrounds – one is an immigrant (possibly Greek or French) and one admits to have grown up in the same conditions as the young defendant. Both men should be able to relate to the defendant in many ways – for a moment, we are afforded a glimpse at the defendant's face, an immigrant from an anonymous ghetto. Strangely, both men vote "guilty" without hesitation.

12 Angry Men (1957) by Sidney Lumet - Unsung FilmsHenry Fonda lets us in on his reason for disputing — he simply does not want to decide on a person's life in the space of five minutes. This is understandable; the viewer takes his side and so, it seems, does the filmmaker. But some of the jurors argue as though it were personal; as though the young man had slaughtered their own sons, daughters and wives. Some of the men, and most noticeably Cobb as juror no. 3, work themselves up into a blind fury.

As the film goes on, it becomes evident that the case was never as clear as the jurors had announced at the beginning. For some, the more reasonable and likable characters, it had simply been a case of accepting the evidence provided without questions. For others, assumptions had been made as a result of deep-rooted prejudices and massive complexes. While many change their minds with the influence of rational thought, some characters simply get angrier and more aggressive; two characters give away their racist views and the powerful scene that runs over the final ten minutes, works to reveal so much about the most moving and brilliant character portrayal in the film.

The happenings described in court unfold for a second time over the duration of 12 Angry Men. By the end, it as though we possess the same knowledge of what happened in the courtroom over the days of the trial, as the twelve men in the film. Helmed by Fonda, juror no. 8, the situation is played out again with incredible detail; every argument and theory presented to us is done so with such extreme care and passion. This is one of the film's that stay with you for a lifetime because its simplicity allows itself to be engraved in the mind, while the complexity of it demands that you make sure it is.
Great movie
The other reviews pretty much sums it up. It's a great movie, that really proves that 12 good actors is all you need to make a top notch movie. It might be old, slow and sometimes really predictable; but for a movie from 1957 it might be the first movie to ever do anything like this. If not the first; it's the first one to nail it.

If you are going to sit down and watch this movie, do not expect a movie with a lot of cool movie effects, because it doesn't have any. People nowadays seem to think that a movie is slow and not good if it goes more than 2 minutes without any action. In this movie they, as mentioned earlier, proves that if the movie has a good lineup of actors, and a good manuscript/director; and set your mind to it, you start putting yourself into the mind of the actors as real people and not actors.

That alone makes this better than most movies I've ever watched.

A bit overwrought, over-directed, but compelling nonetheless...
Twelve-man jury decides the fate of a young man on trial for murder; eleven think the kid is guilty, the twelfth isn't so sure. Director Sidney Lumet makes his directorial debut here, and he's overly fond of riled-up actors shouting at the camera, but he doesn't stray from the proved path of this celebrated play by Reginald Rose, and that's a plus (the material stands quite well on its own). The claustrophobic, muggy atmosphere is rife with tension, and Henry Fonda is a tower of sanity as the only voice of reason. The film attempts to substitute the electricity of a live performance with too many tight shots of angry, sweaty faces, spitting and yelling, however this ensemble cast has a rich anti-camaraderie that puts the film across. *** from ****
The best film of it's type
There's some interesting alchemy going on in this film. While it's extremely realistic in it's look and attention to detail, it's a highly stylized and somewhat mechanical film. All the characters are clearly defined by the single aspect they bring to the scenario and they interact more like types than real people. The story doesn't show you what's on it's mind, it flat out tells you by putting the parts of it's thesis into the mouths of the characters. None of this really matters though because between it's exceptional cast and Lumet's masterful direction. what you get is a finely tuned machine of a film that's the best film ever made of it's kind. Fonda specialized in playing the voice of middle-class intellectual liberalism in the early 60's and it's largely because of his performance here.
We Die, But Hey, They Feel Better About Being Rich
Spoilers Ahead:

First, like you, I adored this movie as a young man. What a deification of the jury system and how inside of every man is a hidden genius of reasoning. Well, after 40 years of philosophy, though this be voted to the back, I follow our credo: Speak the Truth even though it lead to your death. The scene that tells you all you need to know is the revelation that Cobb, Fonda's nemesis, is voting guilty because he wishes to revenge himself upon his estranged son. There is no reason within his arguments: he is just an executioner. Well, friends, in philosophy this is a logical fallacy called Ad Hominem: To The Person. If you cannot defeat someone's argument call them names or slander their character. See, inside of each one of us, including your author, are predilections to convict or acquit. Ergo, we can turn his argument right upon him with equal facility: Fonda's liberal guilt over his wealth causes him to release dangerous poor murderers, who kill people, so Henry can feel better about being wealthy in the midst of millions of poor and suffering people. This, by the way, is easier than doing the righteous thing and giving his wealth away to relieve the boundless suffering he beholds about him. This boy is his sacrificial lamb of atonement on the altar of his guilt.

The movie implies that those who wish to protect the innocent, not Fonda's words punish, no, we seek to save the blood of the innocent we stand in front of and answer to God for. The Ad Hominem logical fallacy, as we are trained to understand, is the last refuge of someone who cannot win an argument. The second premise of the movie is that no matter how overwhelming the mountain of evidence if we but took the requisite time, why it would fall apart like fall's leaves upon the ground. Trust me, if you are in a case like this and the evidence remotely approaches this level, you could ratiocinate over it until the end of our sun: he will still be guilty. You see the synthesis of the liberals Fonda and Lumet? All those who vote guilty are filled with personal demons, they are irrational: please, do not investigate our antithetical predilections to acquit! If the evidence be piled to Alpha Centauri, never mind, if we took the time we would find it is all erroneous. Look, I once thought as you do, it is only after decades of thought living as an ascetic philosopher ruminating over the movie, I see it, finally, as the liberal mind control it has always been.

Whatever you think of this review, when you are called for jury duty remember inclinations to acquit are just as strong as to convict. Think always of the helpless ones who stand behind you that count on you to be as dispassionate and objective as you can. If we eliminated everyone with bias, there would be no jury system. Those who believe in God, as I do, believe we answer to Him for our actions. When you hear the heartbreaking music that Lumet and Fonda play as the accused teenager sits there looking sad, remember the blood of the innocent victims that will be upon your hands. Look, I am sorry Fonda feels bad for being rich, there is such a simple solution; let go of your greed and give it to the poor. Do not put us in danger by brainwashing people into believing that those that wish to convict have private demons that bias us from being objective: how childish! As if we could not turn your argument, with equal adroitness, upon you.

Look, I know you will vote this to the back, who gives a crap? What I want you to do is think about what I have said to you when you are on a jury. That is why I wrote this, for the innocents who die so white, rich liberals do not have to give their money to the poor. He atones by releasing a token poor person, for his expiation, who cares how many of us die? Q.E.D.

And Jesus Said To Zacharias, "one thing more, give all that you have to the poor and follow me." Zacharius turned away and wept for he was a rich man.
Great movie
I remember seeing 12 Angry Men about 10 years ago and really enjoyed it, but I watched it a bit closer last week, and realize what a great movie it really is. I love the movies of the 40's and 50's and I would have to say that 12 Angry Men is up there as one of the best 5 movies of that era for me. There are some many things happening in this movie, that it takes more than one viewing to pick it all up. The camera work is first class, starting off with full view of all 12 jurors, and as the movie progresses and the jurors re-asses their decisions, the camera show the jurors looking straight down the lens, giving the impression they are talking straight to the audience. No names are given till the very end of the movie and then it is only 2 jurors, apart from a quick scene in the courtroom and outside at the end, the rest of the movie is filmed in the jurors room on a hot stinky summers days.

Although not a long movie, the emotional turmoil felt by the jurors is explosive and the audience are drawn into the same gut wrenching feel. I highly recommend this movie.
A Contrarian View
I've always have had problems with this movie. Seeing it listed so highly made me re-watch it and give it another assessment. It has never struck me as a "movie". It's a closed set drama of twelve men talking in a closed room. That presents a pretty high bar to get over to turn it into a movie. Unfortunately it doesn't even seem to try to get over it.

This movie is a turd sitting there. A highly polished sincere turd, but a turd nonetheless.

First the setup. A young man is on trial for murdering his father, stabbing him with a switchblade, apparently as a result of an argument. From statements in the movie, it seems that he is a member of a despised, slum-dwelling minority. The boy is shown to be dark but 'white'. The actor who plays the juror that is his compatriot is Jack Klugman, of Russian Jewish heritage. Was an audience meant to take seriously, even in the '50s that assimilated Jews were on such a low social rung? Were they meant to be some other swarthy European? Italian, Greek, perhaps? To me the only folks likely to be identified that way in '50s NY would be blacks or Puerto Ricans. I know that Hollywood at the time had a real problem casting actors of color, but this whitewashing takes me out of any willing suspension of disbelief.

Then the jurors themselves. They almost all seem one dimensional tropes. Let's go in order:

1) The foreman, a High School Football coach. Just trying to keep the process rolling, without a high degree of insight into the issues.

2) The mousy accountant. Not assertive or expecting to be listened to if he did assert himself.

3) Likely the most interesting, a self-made business man, who has issues with a man needing to be 'manly'; assertive to the point of bullying. He has a failed relationship with his own son that is the key to his behavior on the jury.

4) A stockbroker. A bland technocrat who never sweats. He seems almost the post-war Nazi stereotype of 'only following orders'.

5) The representative of the under-class. So scared of appearing to favor 'one of his own kind', that he compensates by going with the prevailing social order.

6) The common man. At Passover he'd be the son that 'knows not how to ask'.

7) The salesman. Approaches this as a sales pitch, and wants to get it over with to be able to get to tonight's Yankees game.

8) Our beloved identification figure. Wants to avoid the rush to judgment. An architect he (possibly along with his antithesis the stockbroker) is the best educated and well spoken of the bunch. Literally 'the man in the white suit'. Congratulations to you Mr. audience member for smugly identifying with him.

9) The old man. Given to pearls of insight that derive from his experience and wisdom.

10) The racist. Even if the kid isn't guilty, his kind are troublemakers and deserve what they get.

11) The good immigrant. A watchmaker, quiet, polite, well spoken.

12) The ad man. Got to have one of these in any '50s NY set story. Send his gray flannel suit up the flag pole and see if anyone salutes it.

Are any of these, with the possible exception of #3, real human beings?

The argument. The bulk of this exercise is the destruction, point by point of the prosecution's case. A highlight is when #8 presents the jury with a duplicate of the supposedly unique murder weapon, a similar one which was purchased by the by the young man. I'm not a student of the law, but I can't believe that such a introduction of such evidence into jury deliberations is acceptable procedure. Also, although the prosecution's case is sufficiently demolished to introduce the reasonable doubt necessary for an acquittal, never is a plausible alternate scenario is never offered. Why did some intruder enter the murdered man's apartment and kill him? Robbery? Never suggested. Another gang-banger looking for the son? Why was the man stabbed in a non-experienced way? Why is the murder weapon clean of fingerprints?

So, well acted, competently shot, but to my mind a failed drama, and still a non-movie.

Finally, with over 900 member reviews I expect that this will be buried. And, why do we need a spoiler tag on a nearly sixty year old movie?
Sixty years later and still better movie hasn't been made
I wanted to take a while before writing anything about 12 Angry Men. Before I saw this movie I had been thinking about how can a black & white movie, made in the 50's and shot almost entirely in one room, be fifth on IMDb? Now, after seeing it, I'm thinking about why is it not rated even higher. In this review I'm going to try to explain what makes this movie so brilliant.

First, have you noticed how this movie feels so natural? Not even once was I feeling bored or exhausted. Everything runs so smoothly, constantly making you more interested in what had really happened. One of the factors which makes this so is interrupting serious debate with brief and sometimes longer scenes which don't contribute to understanding the topic. Nothing is omitted. This dynamic (which Hollywood nowadays doesn't utilize) serves as a mean to present that humans don't operate as computers. We are intrinsically flawed and able to enjoy, be serious or disdain certain situation. Recall, for example, scene in the bathroom, talking about sports, playing with fan, etc. This gives viewer some space and time to think about what had been said. You can make your own judgment and defragment all information. Viewer thus becomes a sort of a "13-th juror" actively participating in a conversation.

Second, this movie raises serious questions about how can we know anything about historical events. How do you evaluate and interpret given evidence? There are two schools about the topic: first claims that one can never objectively construct sequence of events because of our subjective nature; second claims that we can objectively assert what really did happen. This two approaches make much sense in 12 Angry Men. Some jurors are unable to objectively asses the evidence because they are very restrained by their own feelings or prejudices. The way they interpret the material is thus very biased (Juror #8: "It's always difficult to keep personal prejudice out of a thing like this. And wherever you run into it, prejudice always obscures the truth.") The point is that every one of jurors (including the viewer) is biased but they take different approaches to the problem. This leads us to third point.

Everything said above lead us naturally to the problem of jurisdictional decision making. The most important thing here is the term of reasonable doubt. Some of the jurors don't actually understand what does that mean so they can't handle the problem well. It somewhat scary thinking about how can twelve men from different backgrounds, of which some don't event understand or care about the case, make a decision about someones' life. If the juror is not convinced beyond reasonable doubt (not any doubt!), than he's obliged not to accuse defendant guilty. Reasonable doubt is the highest burden of proof one has to surmount if he's to accuse someone guilty. That's an important difference between exact sciences and law approach as one of the jurors notices (Juror #12: "Oh, come on. Nobody can know a thing like that. This isn't an exact science.") So we see jurors one by one changing their belief when their certainty drops below reasonable doubt. This takes us to the next point.

Let's take a closer look on the particular order each of the jurors voted not guilty. First you have a guy who just wanted to take a closer look at the evidence. He lit a spark. Then you have an old man wanting to hear why others think the accused is guilty. One by one the change their minds. The last ones where a guy who had prejudices about "street children" and the juror who was shouting all the time. This was done intentionally. People who had personal problems with something or someone are always hardest to engage in objective discussion about the issue. Forgiveness is a cure, not turning back on it. Nobody convinced the last juror to change his mind; he convinced himself after seeing a picture of his son. It's like his heart (not mind as with others) couldn't take it anymore. Juror before him had general prejudices. Those people can have a hard heart but are more easy to engage than those with personal problems. He realized his mistake after everyone had started to ignore him. Those with personal problems must confront them by themselves; those with prejudices must confront with others. So the conclusion is that it's harder to confront with someone whose problems lie in their heart than with those whose problems lie in their mind.

Closing remarks: Table has always been an important component in our western culture. It's a place where all important decisions are made and where people get to eat and drink and know each other. That's why one the last shots is camera smoothly running over the table jurors where sitting at. Someone was there and something happened. It's a contrast to the last scene where we see Fonda leaving the building and disappearing into the crowd. Twelve men, who had never seen each other previously and don't even know each others names, with completely different backgrounds and profiles, accidentally sat together and did something important. Now they continue on, probably never seeing each other again. But table stands as a witness.

There are many other elements left to be analyzed. It's better to speak about them sitting at the table discussing with other people than reading a review. I hope this general description of the movie mechanic helps someone understand what lies underneath the hood or makes her or him approach this movie with more scrutiny.
Excellent !

"Twelve Angry Men" is the perfect demonstration that when you have a good script, an intelligent director an a well selected cast a film doesn't have to be expensive or spectacular to be a real good one. This film is all about dialogues and acting and is set 95% in a small room yet its most entertaining and has a lot of tension.

When I said it had a well selected cast I didn't mean an all star cast; Henry Fonda was the only major star; Lee Cobb, Ed Begley, Martin Balsam and E.G. Marshall where very talented supporting actors but not stars; Jack Warden and Jack Klugman weren't even known much in films yet. But a simple direction by Sidney Lumet leaving the development to the script and actors performances worked well and the film is tense, intriguing and most entertaining from beginning to end.

"Twelve Angry Men" is a "trail film" but with a very original focusing since by following the jury's debate the whole case is clearly revealed up to the verdict. It's also interesting that the verdict is not based in a not guilty conviction by the jurors but for the benefit of the doubt, which means that perhaps the boy actually killed his father.

One of the best movies I've ever seen in its genre.
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