“Life is in their hands, Death is on their minds”, a perfect line to describe the 12 jurors in the film. After watching this film, I just sat near my laptop dumbfounded. I was continuously telling myself “What did I just see?” and not many films have had such a profound impact on me, to show me what I was not expecting. I saw this film after two incidents took place, one on twitter and another on Facebook, where two people claimed that after watching 12 Angry Men said “it is a ‘near-perfect film’”, one of them was Chris Stuckmann, a well-known Youtube film critic who did so on twitter. So I decided to give this film a shot, and I knew about 12 Angry Men before as well, it is in the top 10 list of Courtroom Dramas in the AFI 10 Top 10 lists. I was expecting one of two things, either this film was going to be long and boring and overrated or short and interesting and perfect, and thank goodness it was the latter.
12 Angry Men, directed by Sidney Lumet, stars an ensemble cast of 12 people acting as 12 jurors, the cast includes Henry Fonda, Lee J.Cobb, E.g Marshall, Joseph Sweeney, Ed Begley, Martin Balsam, John Fiedler, Jack Klugman, Edward Binns, Jack Warden, George Voskovek and Robert Webber. The cast does an excellent job in defining each character, given the fact that the audience doesn’t know the names of any of the characters (with the exception of 2, which are revealed at the very end). Each character has a specific personality, which brings in much of the film’s intensity in the discussions ,and I was amazed by how well the actors were able to play them so well, all of them did such a remarkable job that I can’t specifically choose who gave the best performance.
The film’s plot centers on a jury consisting of 12 men who have to decide whether a boy, who is in his late teens is guilty of committing murder for killing his father. Should the jury have a reasonable doubt as to whether or not the boy killed his father, the boy will be dropped of all charges and declared a free man, however if the jury believes that the boy is guilty, the boy is to be taken to the electric chair. Much of the film takes place in one set, the jury room, which makes it more of a jury room drama rather than a court room drama. Among the 12 Jurors, 11 of the Jurors believe that the boy is guilty but one of them (Henry Fonda) doesn’t believe so, and in order to give the verdict the claim for the decision must be unanimous. Almost the entire 96 minutes of the film is about how one Juror convinces 11 others that the boy may not be guilty of the crimes that he is charged for, and it really is interesting to see how he does that, it’s what makes this film such a heart-pounding thriller.
One of the major reasons as to why this film is perfect for me is not because of the premise (which is intriguing nonetheless) or the fact that one set was used for the majority of the film, it is because of the character development and the screenplay. The fact that all the 12 Jurors end up claiming that the boy is not guilty by the end would have been predictable had it not been for the character development, within a short span of 96 minutes, you will buy the fact that all of them have changed their minds because they are convinced and not for the sake of the story, the director and the screen writer (Reginald Rose) really take their time in establishing the characters and at the very same time move ahead with the story. The screenplay, by far is probably one of the best I have ever experienced in movies, it is so-well written, and the fact that this movie did not use swear words to express the seriousness of the situation unlike movies today is masterful.
Without a shadow of doubt, I need to reconsider my Top 5 movies. The incredible character development, an extraordinary screenplay, a well-thought story, masterful direction and acting, 12 Angry Men is one of the best films I have ever seen, a film that I do not mind watching again and again and it is a must-watch for anyone who hasn’t seen it yet. I am going with a perfect 10/10.
Final Rating: 10/10