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Film Review: “12 Angry Men” (1957)


Being a juror is not easy. You must be a prosecutor, defender, a policeman, investigator and anything else required in order to analyze the entire case and deliver the right verdict. Sydney Lumet’s 12 Angry Men is a bible; a guidance for those who have ever been or ever will be one of 12 men who must decide someone’s fate- whether they will live or die. And if it happens that you have not seen it yet, then you must hurry…

Eleven men deliver their verdict as guilty, but only one has a reasonable doubt to believe that the 18 year old accused is not guilty. Now they have to start from the beginning to analyze and walk through every little detail to come up with a convincing argument of why they think the young man is guilty or innocent. Whatever the result is, they must remember one thing – an accused man will be sentenced to death without having a chance to file for a notice of appeal.

12 Angry Men, masterfully directed by Sidney Lumet, begins when juror # 8 (Henry Fonda) refuses to raise his hand when the other jurors are about to finalize their verdict – 11 votes against one, which means a delay in sending a man accused of murdering his own father to the electric chair. Uncertainty, and a bad defense causes Henry Fonda`s character to have a reasonable doubt about the entire case, which makes the other jurors reconsider, analyze, and examine each aspect of the life of an unseen for the audience man…

Even though Juror #8 is certain of his beliefs, he asks the other jurors to explain why they think that the young man must be sentenced to death for a crime he may not have committed. It is fascinating to see how all these men express their strong arguments against juror #8. And, when they dig deep into the story, they understand that nothing is as simple as it seems, and maybe, just maybe, the 18-year old man did not kill his father. While they argue about his life, a great battle begins between juror #8 and a very stubborn juror #3 (Lee J. Cobb), who has no intention of changing his decision under the heavy facts brought up by the rest of the jurors.

What is most amazing about 12 Angry Men is the simplicity of the story written by Reginal Rose. The character study is done so well and is so educational and inspiring, that the audience will keep thinking about it even after watching this film. The entire cast delivers a career defining performance, while Henry Fonda and Lee J. Cobb are at their best, showing how one determined man with a reasonable doubt can convince a stubborn juror and make him go as far as possible in his thinking to bring him closer to changing his mind.

In conclusion, a 12 Angry Men is a good example of how not rushing with conclusions and a bit slow down when someone`s life depends on it. It also proves wrong a famous saying about how one man is not a warrior in a field.  And that warrior is the one who can change the direction of the battle which can take the entire team to a long-waited victory which is relieve and satisfaction of not making a mistake, that could have easily ruin someone`s life.

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