12 Angry Men (1957)

<strong class="MovieTitle">12 Angry Men</strong> (1957)

(On Cable TV, July 2018) Some movies struggle with the burden of their reputations, but 12 Angry Men ably supports its considerable acclaim. The concept is terrific (twelve men in a sequestered jury decide whether to condemn a young man to death) and the execution does justice to the premise. While clearly a film from the fifties (all-male, all-white cast), it still crackles with dramatic energy and great performances. The way the audience is gradually made aware of the case though conversations and questions is intriguing, and the way no less than twelve characters are sketched in less than 100 minutes is also impressive. Henry Fonda is the star of the film as the lone holdout juror who eventually gets everyone to change their minds, but each actor gets a piece of drama to distinguish themselves. It’s interesting how 12 Angry Men, from a judicial perspective, is both inspiring and horrifying—while the film has a strong message to send about the civil importance of jury duty, it also depends on the jury acting in terrible ways—investigating the case themselves, then building presumption upon presumption. Still, we’re here for the drama more than the lecture, and there is a lot to like in the individual scenes that mark the turning point for each character—particularly satisfying is the sequence in which jurors tell another incredibly racist one to shut up now that he’s had his say. 12 Angry Man is tightly wound-up, with every facet of its background (most notably the weather, and the fan starting to work once the jury shifts) integrated in the plot. It’s quite a movie, and it’s still well worth watching sixty years later.

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