|'Lumet slowly moved the walls of the set (a jury room) inwards, forcing the men to be closer together and perpetrating a mood of increased claustrophobia and dread'|
I’ve been looking forward to watching 12 Angry Men for a long time now, mainly because it’s an extremely highly regarded film which I genuinely knew nothing about until reading up on it relatively recently (within the last 6 months I’d say).
Just how highly regarded it is can be seen from a quick look at IMDB’s much revered ‘Top 250’ list. I know this list has its problems and critics (I’m one of them) and it is easy to criticise it (The Dark Knight shooting straight in at number 6 for example, making it the best film of the Noughties ahead of only three other entries in the top 20; Return of the King, City of God and The Fellowship of The Ring) but it’s still a weighted gauge of public opinion and to make it to number 8 with an average of 8.8/10 where 38.5% of voters gave it full marks is mighty impressive.
While Sidney Lumet’s film might not quite make my own personal top 10 it certainly didn’t disappoint and it’s a fantastic expose of the jury system, and justice system as a whole, which successfully creates a play-like cast of 12 individuals with their own personalities and motivations.
The plot centres around the immediate supposed guilt of an unnamed boy accused of murder. Initially, all but one of the jurors are convinced he is guilty, but slowly, the one dissenting juror takes it upon himself to convince them otherwise. The success of the film hinges on the performance of the dissenting juror and Lumet couldn’t have picked a better actor at the time than Henry Fonda who adds real presence as ‘Juror 8’ whilst managing to avoid any hint of malice that would have undermined his character’s persona.
Beside him the other standouts are generally the jurors who are most set on the boy’s guilt with Lee J. Cobb and Ed Begley providing particularly interesting and insightful characters in their own right.
The famous bit of trivia related to the film (and this might even of been why I started looking into it in the first place) is that to heighten the tension, Lumet slowly moved the walls of the set (a jury room) inwards, forcing the men to be closer together and perpetrating a mood of increased claustrophobia and dread.
If I do have a criticism of the film it’s that this perhaps doesn’t work as well as it should and whilst I was captivated by the film I was never really on the edge of my seat as I would have been if, perhaps, I’d seen it as a play in a theatre (something which it appears made for). Perhaps one other minor point is that occasionally, Juror 8’s reasoning strays into ‘and then I pulled a rabbit out of my hat’ territory, rather than the logical arguments he uses through most of the discussion.
In all though it’s a fantastic piece of cinema and I’m happy to throw my hat in with the masses on this one and award it 8.8, or failing that, 9/10.