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12 Angry Men
Year:
1957
Country:
USA
Genre:
Crime, Drama, Mystery
IMDB rating:
8.9
Director:
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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Reviews
The over-used term "classic movie" really comes into its own here!
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!
2002-08-12
A Very Flawed classic
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.
2005-09-03
excellent
Wow, just wow.A brilliant film set in the right tone, no unnecessary scenes or waste of time. It is is a simple plot that will ultimately blow your mind. I watched this film recently and it was difficult in the beginning to adjust to it as it is in black and white. But soon the movie just caught my attention and I completely forgot about it being in black and white.

A very well written script focusing on every detail and there is almost no sign of it being fictional. It is wonderful how the entire movie was set in just one room and doesn't bore the audience or one minute. The acting was phenomenal from everyone and they knew that the movie was going to be special in their career.

A must watch for everyone.
2015-08-14
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 ****
2005-11-13
Masterpiece Nearing Perfection
It has been described as "flawless", "immaculate" and "supreme" -and for good reason. '12 Angry Men' is an old Swiss golden clock in the age of Japanese digital watches, a Flemish renaissance mahogany armchair in the era of prefabricated furniture, a handcrafted motion picture at a time of processed film-making. Henry Fonda is the sole dissenting juror in a murder case, who utilizes rational methodology to convince the remaining eleven jurors that the accused is not guilty as charged. Filming almost exclusively in a small, nondescript jury deliberation room, director Sidney Lumet produces a masterpiece of American film-making, reaching the limits of structured cinematic delivery. The opening segment, which rolls uncut for over 10 minutes, is unparalleled, as is the dramatic sequence of the murder recreation. Assisted by an outstanding theatrical script, the film's cast members literally forget to act, allowing their roles as jurors to inhabit their conscience as they perform. Notably, E.G. Marshall (juror #4) splendidly captures the essence of his role as a prudent financier, while Lee J. Cobb (juror #3) writes cinematic history with his phenomenal portrayal of Fonda's leading adversary among the jury. Last but not least, the film's didactic quality is multifaceted, on the one hand illustrating how educated citizens can guide, rather than endure, the democratic process, and on the other hand illuminating how moral purpose and artistic dedication can guide a film's production in ways Hollywood creators often choose to neglect. Overall, a solid film that has earned the respect of successive generations of movie audiences.
2003-08-01
ACLU claptrap, yet an engrossing picture; angelic Fonda is unbearably smarmy
It's a movie that takes place in one hot, smoke-filled, sweaty room, at a time when men felt naked if they took their jacket and tie off. 11 come into the room wanting to fry the defendant; one man starts pointing out all the ambiguous testimony. He nobly upholds the concept of "reasonable doubt." Guess who triumphs?

The movie is remarkable. Sidney Lumet was even then a master filmmaker. The claustrophobia is palpable, but the camera is fluid enough to give you every angle on the closed, locked room, and every emotion and bead of sweat on the men trapped there.

The story, however, presents easy heroes and villains: the everyman just trying to make sure justice is done; the bigot who can't keep his opinions to himself; the noble immigrant. Cliches all, even back in 1957.

Yet, the cast is so real. These are real, sweaty, down-to-earth actors putting on the performances of their lives. You always feel like you are in there with them, following the logic, thinking about whether the evidence presented is believable.

It's searing, yet dopey.
2001-12-11
First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win
12 Angry man, you will be the 13th, Yes I am true. One man stands against the rest and argues that the boy may not be guilty.

Henry Fonda plays one of juror who does not feel the boy was guilty with the evidence provided. The movie revolves around the scenario of his reasonable doubts with the evidences and that makes other jurors to get convinced. At first the other men were demanding, impatient and rude. But Henry stands still with his doubts and put them on to the other jurors.

12 Angry Man is one of the greatest films ever made. It will grab your attention from the start and make you sit down and think long after you finish watching.

My rating 10/10. Will appear in my Top 100.

Strongly recommended.
2014-12-06
From guilty to no guilty,,,,,,,this movie is true masterpiece.
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.
2007-05-01
Beyond a reasonable doubt
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.
2005-02-08
Finely tuned
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.
2003-11-11
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