Release Date: April 13th, 1957
Directed by: Sidney Lumet
Written by: Reginald Rose
Music by: Kenyon Hopkins
Cast: Henry Fonda, Lee J. Cobb, Ed Begley, E.G. Marshall, Jack Warden, Jack Klugman, Joseph Sweeney, Martin Balsam, John Fiedler, Edward Binns, George Voskovec, Robert Webber
Orion-Nova Productions, United Artists, 96 Minutes
Being an avid film buff my entire life almost feels like complete bullshit when I haven’t seen 12 Angry Men until now.
In my defense (pun intended), I’m just not a big fan of courtroom dramas. I usually find them tedious and rambling and a complete bore to watch. Although, for some strange reason, I loved watching Perry Mason reruns with my granmum in the 80s. That was probably just more about bonding time and I was waiting for the Cubs game to start in the afternoon.
Regardless, I have always heard that 12 Angry Men was one of the absolute best movies ever made. I have also heard about how great of a director Sidney Lumet is but I haven’t seen enough of his pictures, outside of my film studies classes in high school. I am trying to rectify that injustice.
12 Angry Men is fantastic. Considering that IMDb’s Top 250 has it ranked as the fifth best film ever made, says a lot. It has an 8.9 rating on IMDb, as well as 5/5 on Amazon, 4/4 by Roger Ebert, a 94 percent by Google users and a 100 percent by critics with 97 percent audience score on Rotten Tomatoes. How many films can claim accolades like that?
The film follows twelve jurors who sit in one room, for the entire film, as they discuss a murder case. At first, everyone except one man (Henry Fonda) thinks that the verdict of guilty is an obvious one. As the movie rolls on, Fonda’s Juror No. 8 defends his stance and challenges all the other men. This leads to ninety minutes of fantastic debate about the case and the facts and what it actually means to serve on a jury. It exposes the men and their true feelings and examines their biases, their character and their morals. It is probably the most important film on the subject and I honestly feel, should be required viewing in every high school civics class.
Sidney Lumet shot this film very straightforward without any bells, whistles or special flourishes. It almost plays out like a documentary, at times.
The acting is magnificent and everything about the film feels truly organic. Henry Fonda, who I have always loved, is at his absolute best. Jack Klugman, who would later go on to star in The Odd Couple and Quincy, M.E., has never shined brighter. Ed Begley, Lee J. Cobb and Jack Warden were damn near perfection as the very vocal opposition to Fonda and those he rallied to his side.
12 Angry Men is truly a film devoid of flaws. I’m not really sure why the hell it was remade in the 90s for television. Although that version has some high critical praise, as well. Maybe I’ll watch it someday.
With as many motion pictures as I have seen in my life, it is extremely rare to find something so immaculate. 12 Angry Men is, without a shadow of a doubt, one of the greatest films I have ever experienced.
It is also just as important today, as it was in 1957.