Review: 12 Angry Men (1957)

Warning: This review may contain traces of spoilers and may have come into contact with spoilers from other movies.

A simple plot: 12 jurors are tasked with deciding the fate of a young man convicted of murdering his own father.

The reason this movie has grown to become my all time favourite film, the honour of which once went to the first two Godfather films, is because of how effective and honest a simple story like that can be told in a feature film. It just goes to show that one can tell a very engaging story with a single set production and a handful of actors. All twelve characters have enough time and focus to get their say in every matter and all are well portrayed by their respective actor. The tension is felt throughout as we get to feel the claustrophobia that some of these characters experienve being cooped up in that small room for essentially the entire film. As they try to prove the defendant’s guilt or innocence, they all must to put their two cents in and attempt to make sense of a very tough situation, given the little evidence and conflicting details they have.

The screenplay is as perfect as motion picture writing can demonstrate. As mentioned before, we do get to see all the jurors develop as their own characters throughout the course of the film, and their characteristics are in fact unique. All their arguments regarding whether the defendant is innocent or guilty may seem implausible and may come off as possible plot holes or even just plain idiotic nonsense in the eyes of many, but honestly, does it really matter? Nope, because proving what exactly went down and how it went down, is arbitrary and subjective. Their job is to decide whether they believe the man is guilty or innocent, based on their own intellect, as the law deems fair. Any facts they come up with, are open to interpretation, as they are just bringing hypothetical explanations to a scenario that they were not exactly around to witness.

In the end, the film is all about human character and different types of behaviour. What 12 Angry Men manages to do is show the best and worst of all human beings in a given situation, testing their judgement and ethics in a matter of life and death. Sidney Lumet did a great job in making this picture, bringing in a perfect, well-rounded cast to add more dimension to an already great screenplay. For my money, this should have won the Oscar for best motion picture.

5 out of 5

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