In form, “12 Angry Men” is a courtroom drama. In purpose, it’s a crash course in those passages of the Constitution that promise defendants a fair trial and the presumption of innocence. It has a kind of stark simplicity.
~Roger Ebert (Film Critic)
Sydney Lumet‘s maiden direction provides an important insight on analysis and questioning of the human conscience and bigotry, moreover why it should and shouldn’t accompany jurors during any case. A method with which a court announces the decision against any accused is supposedly the just moral duty the jury members must perform, as their ultimate decision has direct influence on someone’s life and death.
12 Angry Men doesn’t start with 12 men grudging. The question of reasoning and desire for justice raises an angst among them to become angrier. The exasperation starts from the warming temperature of the room, it convulses into hatred starting from biases, prejudice and carelessness, and finally subduing into a vex for a fairer trail.
A debate on a fairer judgement by the jury is the only theme of the movie. Solving the criminal case isn’t the motive but sending a young man to death is. The 12 men jury composed of unlike individuals in a compact room on a hottest day possible to reason over passing a verdict, where only one stands up for a fairer judgement and 11 other are recluse into their conformity of the accused’ guilt, is what 12 Angry Men is all about.
Juror #8 (Henry Fonda) is the one who champions the cause for accused’s innocence, and the whole movie follows the unabated debate to prove one man’s point as a reason for general consensus, hence saving someone’s life.
The assertive dialogues and the greater gesticulations of actors add life to the script, which could have been duller for full 95 minutes. Fonda’s immense persuasion and tense in bringing facts and possibilities into his arguments brings a general disapproval from fellow jurors, however, his presumptions help change the stubborn decisions of 11 others. Every evidence here is based on an assumption and every reasonable decision is made out of it!
Set in a single room the entire time, the movie shows nothing of the trail, court-room drama or duller arguments made by the attorneys but only the discussions of jurors before reaching the unanimous verdict. Evidences are shown only second-hand, as reasons for disposition of the case are thrown here and there to prove reasonable doubt for guilt. The background score is less yet subtle. The camera is centered on human emotions and facial expressions. None of the casts misses any important scene nor anyone of them lacks a powerful dialogue to support their character. The brilliant use of visual cues and camera angle adds subliminal elements to the movie which can only be felt in audience’s subconscious. Lumet’s unorthodox treatment of a sensitive subject on-screen comes out to be alive and amazing.
Not Guilty – 1/11
Not Guilty – 2/10
Not Guilty – 3/9
Not Guilty – 4/8
Not Guilty – 5/7
Not Guilty – 6/6
Not Guilty – 7/5
Not Guilty – 8/4
Not Guilty – 9/3
Not Guilty – 10/2
Not Guilty – 11/1
Not Guilty – 12/0
Analysis of Jurors’ Arguments
The jurors’ argument covers presumption of innocence and persuasions. Reasonable doubt is the burning factor among the few jurors, enlarged and popularized by only Juror # 8 to provide a fair judgement from fairer -supposed to be, jurors. If all the 12 jurors, based on their personal biases and prejudice without reasoning or fact finding, declare the case against the accused, the young boy will face capital pubishment. Juror #8 never confirms that the boy is guilty or not nor does he confirms his facts, his presumptions are all based on a reason for factual premise of the evidences and witnesses provided, therefore, his matter of persuasion among other 11 jurors is to look into things more tactfully and not judge the matter in a flick of second.
Logical reasons and Persuasions are all it takes for one person to correct the misconceptions of other. Persuasion is what Juror #8 uses to make other jurors to not decide on a whim, more importantly not on what they’ve heard and saw on the court but personal assurance of what could be correct and what couldn’t.
The tension’s born out of personal differences, personality conflict and body languages. As jurors find more reasons for the accused not being guilty, they channel their anger against personal biases and prejudice. At the end, the justice is served! All thanks to the value of reasoning and persuasion that helped change the 11 jury members’ conceited ideologies into a fairer and unanimous verdict.
12 Angry Men (1957)
Directed by Sydney Lumet, Written by Reginald Rose, Produced by Henry Fonda, Reginald Rose, Starring: Henry Fonda, Lee J. Cobb, E.G. Marshall, Martim Balsam and others
Distributed by United Artists