Connect with us
12 Angry Men 1957
Courtesy of Orion-Nova Productions

Film

12 Angry Men: Reason Meets Rage in this Landmark Drama

Life Is In Their Hands — Death Is On Their Minds!

12 Angry Men at 65

Sidney Lumet’s courtroom drama still simmers and pops with tension. 12 Angry Men takes place in a single room, with a jury who must make a unanimous decision on the sentencing of an 18-year-old youth with a murder charge. A guilty verdict means the electric chair.

The stakes are high, yet much of the power of the film comes from the unwillingness of many of the jury to recognize the severity of their task. One member is impatient to deliver a quick verdict to get to his baseball game. Another holds deep and vindictive prejudices. Many are quick to anger. The film thrives on these conflicts.

We begin with one juror’s (Henry Fonda) vote of ‘not guilty’ against the view of the eleven other jurors. The others are openly antagonistic. He is outnumbered. How could he argue for a ‘not guilty’ verdict when the evidence against the youth is seemingly watertight?

The plot unfolds like a Sherlock Holmes-style mystery, with a dash of communal experimentation, as the other jurors are persuaded by our protagonist to critique each and every bit of evidence against the accused. We are reminded that a ‘guilty’ verdict should prove the crime without any ‘reasonable doubt’. As each portion of evidence is tested and found to be on shaky ground, this reasonable doubt begins to slowly settle on the room.

Courtesy of Orion-Nova Productions

Fonda’s juror is the voice of compassion, charismatically, and mostly calmly, reminding the other jurors of the stakes of their decision. His attentiveness to the facts of the case and his willingness to open the floor to discussion makes him a quietly powerful presence. The other jurors are equally compelling: one whose family issues get in the way (Lee J. Cobb) and another who is only interested in the baseball (Jack Warden) both bring a fantastic degree of conflict to the plot. The whole cast is stellar: this is perhaps one of the best ensemble casts in film history.

As the day progresses, the group re-casts their votes at intervals, serving as a real-time tracker of who has been swayed to the other side. Predictably, yet with an incredibly satisfying momentum, one-by-one each of the jurors is persuaded by Fonda’s protagonist to vote ‘not guilty’. Each vote count reveals the turning of the tide in increments, providing a great weight to the changing of each character’s opinion: all the twelve characters are given their moment to shine. And, of course, each is given their moment to rage.

Courtesy of Orion-Nova Productions

It is a testament to Lumet’s direction and Reginald Rose’s writing that all twelve of the jurors feel distinct from each other. Each has their own life experiences, virtues, and prejudices that they bring to the table. Like it or not, these differing individuals must clash to reach a conclusion, must fight past their anger, and give in to the voice of reason.

In a modern age characterized by never-ending dissent and political conflict, it is refreshing to watch a film with a decidedly humanistic outlook. 12 Angry Men enacts a space where reason and compassion prevail in the face of obstinacy and ignorance. Perhaps a fantasy, but a cathartic joy to watch all the same.

Watch 12 Angry Men

Now Streaming

Written By

Ryan is a culture writer, aspiring academic, and film enthusiast, with a particular interest in all things horror. He also can often be found, notepad to hand, puzzling over the latest detective games. He tweets at @RyanOShea42.

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Facebook

Trending

2001: A Space Odyssey 2001: A Space Odyssey

2001: Clarke and Kubrick’s Odyssey of Discovery

Culture

Deep Impact was a serious look at the end of the world Deep Impact was a serious look at the end of the world

25 Years Later: Deep Impact was a Serious Look at the End of the World 

Film

The Best Movies of 1973 The Best Movies of 1973

The Golden Year of Movies: 1973

Culture

The Zone of Interest The Zone of Interest

Cannes 2023: Jonathan Glazer’s The Zone of Interest is a Manicured Vision of Hell

Culture

Jeanne Du Barry review Jeanne Du Barry review

Cannes 2023: Maïwenn’s Great Hair Goes to Great Lengths in Jeanne Du Barry

Culture

Black Flies Gripping Black Flies Gripping

Cannes 2023: Black Flies— Gripping Descent into the Underbelly of New York’s Urban Misery 

Culture

Asteroid City: A Gimmicky Vanity Project Asteroid City: A Gimmicky Vanity Project

Cannes 2023: Wes Anderson’s Asteroid City is a Gimmicky Vanity Project

Culture

La Passion de Dodin Bouffant: La Passion de Dodin Bouffant:

La Passion de Dodin Bouffant: Surfeit Cooking Drama Most Inane Film at Cannes

Culture

Four Daughters Four Daughters

Cannes 2023: Four Daughters: A Family’s Journey From Goth to Niqab

Culture

BlackBerry movie review BlackBerry movie review

BlackBerry Is a Wonderfully Canadian Account of a Dying Tech Dream

Film

The Mother Jennifer Lopez and Lucy Paez The Mother Jennifer Lopez and Lucy Paez

Jennifer Lopez’s The Mother is Eerily Similar to Enough, But That’s Not a Bad Thing

Film

Godzilla 1998 Godzilla 1998

Godzilla at 25: When Hollywood Made a Manhattan Monster Movie, with Disastrous Results

Film

10 Best SummerSlam Matches 10 Best SummerSlam Matches

10 Best SummerSlam Matches

Culture

The Matrix Reloaded The Matrix Reloaded

20 Years Later: The Matrix Reloaded was Underwhelming, but Still Underrated

Film

SPIDER-MAN: ACROSS THE SPIDER-VERSE review SPIDER-MAN: ACROSS THE SPIDER-VERSE review

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse Is a Dazzling Web of Unbridled Creativity

Film

Discovery channel Discovery channel

The Head-Scratching Moves Discovery Has Been Making

Culture

Connect