12 Angry Men fulfills my drama portion of the draft.
This movie shows what a great story and characters can do. 12 Angry Men is minimalism in action. It takes place on one set except for the first few minutes at the beginning and end. Henry Fonda starred and he was surrounded by outstanding character actors that Hollywood had at that time.
I read a review about this movie back in the 1990s. I had to hunt it down and watch it. I was not let down. The movie is so engrossing that I lose myself in it. I ask myself if I would be the one juror brave enough to stand alone without evidence to oppose the 11 other jurors who want to find the defendant guilty and leave?
A stifling hot jury room in the middle of New York. Twelve jurors are deciding the fate of a troubled teenage boy accused of stabbing his father. Within 15 minutes you know the characters at least superficially. You have met these people before. As the clock ticks hour by hour you get to know them through and through.
We are not privy to the trial, we have to rely on the jurors to reconstruct it. We witness impatience, anger, frustration, bigotry, shunning, and sadness. You can feel the heat and sweat in this hot building and the frustration building. This story has been copied so many times since but no copy matches the intensity of this movie. None of the jurors have names…they don’t need names. You know them well already.
One long juror (Henry Fonda) has a reasonable doubt and the other 11 are sure the teen is guilty. He is not positive the teen is not guilty…he is just sure that he is not sure… creating reasonable doubt. He is openly mocked but stands his ground. We are in for a marathon not a sprint. Slowly he brings up what ifs and the tension starts.
Some of the other jurors genuinely care but others just want out of the hot jury room. There are pressing things in their lives like ballgames, work, and other places to go. The thought of finding the defendant guilty and sending him to the electric chair is not important in their narrow lives. Some know he is guilty by looking at him…they have no interest digging deep into the facts.
The movie was released in 1957. It was written by Reginald Rose. Henry Fonda loved the story. Fonda and Rose produced the film. The movie did not make it’s costs back but was nominated for three Oscars. Fonda blamed the failure on United Artist for booking the film into too large of venues for this small movie. The movie was filmed over 19 days…most of that was rehearsal.
This movie has mystery, suspense, and is so human it hurts. You have met most of these jurors before…both good and bad. Something that most of them share is passion. Passion for the wrong thing, passion for the right thing, and then the passion collides.
To sum up why I like the movie. Real life plays out. Henry Fonda is not a hero, hell he admits the kid may be guilty. The other jurors are forced to work together whether they like it or not…and that is real life.
If I’m ever on trial I pray the Henry Fonda character is on the jury. If you have never seen this movie…it’s well worth the time.
Martin Balsam (Juror #1)
John Fiedler (Juror #2)
Lee J. Cobb (Juror #3)
E.G. Marshall (Juror #4)
Jack Klugman (Juror #5)
- Edward Binns (Juror #6)
- Jack Warden (Juror #7)
- Henry Fonda (Juror #8)
- Joseph Sweeney (Juror #9)
- Ed Begley (Juror #10)
- George Voskovec (Juror #11)
- Robert Webber (Juror #12)