12 Angry Men (1957)

12-Angry-Men

Dave’s 3-Word Review:
A Timeless Classic

Court Dramas. Some people love them; others don’t. They are typically done the same way, through a long and stress-inducing trial that tests the intelligence of both prosecutor and defense in what many would describe as a tantalizing experience. Almost always, these films are on the defenses side; trying to make an innocent man or woman go free, and almost always that is what happens. Now take the same idea and give it the perspective of jurors in the deliberating room…suddenly you have a completely different film, despite the similar court case. 12 Angry Men is an astonishing film told from an important and often disregarded perspective. Even though there is a remake available, nothing has ever matched the powerful scenes this had. It’s amazing how twelve angry men can make one very happy me.

This film began as the jury was sent to deliberate. Right away, the audience may feel confused because we know nothing about the trial past jurors saying things like, “what a trial right? First degree murder, boy I tell ya.” When the jurors decide to get things over with and do a vote, one man votes not guilty. Because it must be unanimous, this single juror keeps the other jurors in place, making them…well…angry. To make things worse, the air conditioning is broken on the hottest day of the year. The case itself is cut and dry, obviously the accused is guilty…but one juror (Peter Fonda) isn’t as convinced. So throughout the film, the jurors angrily and impatiently sift through evidence and repeatedly go through the facts, and a reasonable doubt does begin to arise surprisingly.

12 Angry Men focuses more on giving an in-depth look at minute details that, for whatever reason, weren’t discussed in court. Things like trying to make sense of two eyewitness testimonies through the use of timing, like noticing a torn jacket on an old man – helping the jurors realize the man was out looking for attention. A murder weapon that was “positively” unique and nothing like it, was actually found to be easily found near the accused house – meaning anyone could get one like it. Some of these details, granted, should have been brought up in court, but for the sake of the film, I’ll say the jurors were smarter than the lawyers. The rest of the details were believable. Jurors are allowed to come up with their own assumptions. Facts are presented in court and the jurors are there to make sense of it before coming up with a decision. That was done very well, but honestly what makes this film so amazing is how powerful it really is.

 “Innocent until proven guilty”. How many have heard of this phrase, but understand that our legal system is more of the opposite? Sadly, it’s true. Jurors are not supposed to send a man to prison or an electric chair unless they are 100% sure the facts prove the man is guilty. They aren’t trying to prove the accused is guilty or innocent here, they are just trying to find a reasonable doubt, and it constantly arises here. The power arrives at the performances of the angriest and most prideful jurors…scenes start to show the true prejudiced nature of one juror, and the most powerful scene had every single juror ignore the one in the most unique of fashions. It’s really quite beautiful at how honest this film is. It’s trying to grab your attention on things that should be taken seriously, like “innocent until proven guilty”

As for how the movie is shot? Well it’s quite theatrical, given the fact that this was adapted from a teleplay, but that really gave the film its edge. You see, the entire movie practically takes place in that jury room. To make things more theatrical, the entire movie is done in real time, so you really do start to understand why all of the patience is wearing thin for these men. At the same time, the case itself is too interesting to ignore.

There honestly needs to be more movies like this. I know of a couple films, including John Grisham’s film adaptation of Runaway Jury, which I also really enjoy, but again…nothing beats 12 Angry Men.

 

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