12 Angry Men [VHS]
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Sidney Lumet's directorial debut remains a tense, atmospheric (though slightly manipulative and stagy) courtroom thriller, in which the viewer never sees a trial and the only action is verbal. As he does in his later corruption commentaries such as Serpico or Q & A, Lumet focuses on the lonely one-man battles of a protagonist whose ethics alienate him from the rest of jaded society. As the film opens, the seemingly open-and-shut trial of a young Puerto Rican accused of murdering his father with a knife has just concluded and the 12-man jury retires to their microscopic, sweltering quarters to decide the verdict. When the votes are counted, 11 men rule guilty, while one--played by Henry Fonda, again typecast as another liberal, truth-seeking hero--doubts the obvious. Stressing the idea of "reasonable doubt," Fonda slowly chips away at the jury, who represent a microcosm of white, male society--exposing the prejudices and preconceptions that directly influence the other jurors' snap judgments. The tight script by Reginald Rose (based on his own teleplay) presents each juror vividly using detailed soliloquies, all which are expertly performed by the film's flawless cast. Still, it's Lumet's claustrophobic direction--all sweaty close-ups and cramped compositions within a one-room setting--that really transforms this contrived story into an explosive and compelling nail-biter. --Dave McCoy
Top Customer Reviews
12 talented actors
lots of emotion
1 very simple set
no special effects
Produce under good direction. Serves millions.
Seriously, this film is a masterpiece. A jury has to decide a seemingly open and shut case of a young man (who, as with most of the jurors, remains nameless throughout the film) who has been accused of murdering his father in a fit of anger. The evidence couldn't be clearer that this guy did it. Murder weapon, motive, eyewitness testimony all in place.
One juror (Fonda) however, wants to talk the case out. He's not 100% convinced that the guy is guilty. And so it begins. An emotional roller coaster follows as we learn about the jurors, their reasons for voting as they do and how (or if) they are forced to re-evaluate the evidence.
Part of the charm of this film is it's starkness. 99% of the film takes place in one room; the jury room, a simple set consisting of little more than a table, 12 chairs, some windows and a fan.
The best part, I believe, is the character development of the jurors. When the movie begins, they are just 12 anonymous characters. Even though none of the jurors are named in the movie (two are in the very last scene, after the case is over) by the time the movie is over, you feel as if you know and understand every one of them.
Truly a remarkable film and well worth repeated viewings.
Practically the entire film is set in the single jury room, on a hot and humid day, with these twelve incredibly diverse men, and shows how their backgrounds color how they arrive at their conclusions. Truth is very elusive in this case, and it's a matter of questioning if there is "reasonable doubt."
There are many things that point out how times have changed in 50 years; it has been decades since a jury would be chosen that would only consist of white men, and a few years since a table full of ashtrays with cigarette butts would be allowed, but the basic truths remain the same, and if one places twelve strangers to come to a verdict in a difficult case, tempers are going to flare. The hot head in this film is Juror # 3, Lee J. Cobb, who sees the events through the lens of his relationship with his son, and he gives a fiery performance, but each actor has a lot to contribute to the success of this film.
This was the first feature film in Sidney Lumet's long career, and he was nominated for a Best Director Oscar; the film was also nominated for Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay, but lost in all three categories to David Lean's "Bridge on the River Kwai." Lumet was to work with Fonda again in '64 with the riveting cold war thriller (and my favorite Lumet film) "Fail-Safe," which also had in its cast Juror # 6, Ed Binns.
Total running time is 96 minutes.
When I saw the detail in Jack Warden's hat, I nearly flipped out. All the times I've watched the movie on DVD and I never saw this intricate, flashy design in his hat. It fits his character perfectly, too: salesman, goofy, etc. And there are details to be found all over the film that enrich the themes like that.
Also, if you're like me and had a full screen DVD (that was by far the easiest one to find, inexplicably), you can finally see the whole 1.66:1 aspect ratio, and this makes a big, big difference in the feel of the movie.
The clarity and aspect ratio of this Blu-ray make this, already an intimate film, all the more intimate. If, like me, you've known and loved these characters for many viewings, you might be stunned at how much closer this version brings you to them.
I own some really beautiful Blu-rays (The Searchers, Hellboy II, The Incredibles, and True Grit[Coen Bros] are some of the visual stand-outs), but none of those upgrades to Blu-ray have impacted the feeling of the film for me as much as this one.
Oh, and the audio is nice. I heard a couple lines I never quite understood before.
Although this will seem outdated to many with its all-male jury, smoking allowed, no air-conditioning and no fancy meals, the story line transcends all that. It's a story of reasonable doubt, deductive reasoning/thinking and discovering that things aren't always as they seem.
The 12 men don't start out angry. One juror is not convinced of the guilt of the accused. In the process of discussing the details of the crime, tempers flare.
The photography is wonderful--the use of shadows & light and camera angles is a joy to behold. The interaction between the very diverse men is engaging, and although some of the scenes seem a little stilted (remember this was made in 1957), overall the acting is stellar.
I think this is a great movie to watch with young people to help them learn about tolerance, analyzing information, patience, critical thinking, humility and redemption. There is no sex, violence (other than a slight scuffle between two jurors), gore or swearing.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Near the beginning the film, we learn that J3 is enraged over his son breaking contact with him and we...Read more
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