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Saturday, May 29, 2010

Twelve angry men (released in 1947) starring Henry Fonda, a gripping drama set in a jury room

12 Angry Men is a courtroom drama adapted from the tele-play of the same name by Reginald Rose. It was directed by Sidney Lumet and is the only film co-produced by Henry Fonda. It tells the story of a jury, made of twelve men, who has to find a defendant guilty or not guilty and also come up with the appropriate sentencing. This entire 96 minutes of the movie takes place in the jury room adjoining the court room. So ultimately this movie utilizes only one set and is said to have been shot with a very low budget.
This jury of twelve men has to deliberate whether the defendant, a slum boy, is guilty of killing his father. The two witnesses are one old man and a lady across the street. The boy has a very weak alibi and there are considerable number of witnesses who heard cries or saw him checking the wound. The most interesting part of this movie is the fact that almost all the characters are unnamed except for the two jurors, at the end. At first, all the jurors except juror No. 8 vote for a guilty verdict. Since American law states that for a criminal offense, all the jurors should give a unanimous verdict, or it may result in a mistrial.

At the insistence of juror No. 8, the others start examining the evidence again and soon start having doubts. Soon juror No. 9 switches sides, and votes with No. 8 resulting in a stalemate. Soon other dissenting voices crop up as they further examine the evidences. Juror Nos 5, 6 and 11 also vote with No. 8 and No.9. These deliberations tire No. 7, who just takes their side to get it over with.
Soon the personality clashes wand psychological conflicts come up to the surface. Angry exchanges and outbursts also undermine the process. Juror number one is so consumed by racial hatred that he just thinks the boy guilty because of his Hispanic origin. The last jury member, No. 3, confesses that his own past would have colored his actions. No. 3 has a running feud with his son, who had raised his hand on the father for trying to mend his ways. These deliberations bring forth the buried feelings to the fore and he breaks down and cries. Juror No: 3 takes out the photograph of him and his son and tears it apart and votes for the “not guilty” verdict. Juror No.8 comforts him and slowly a consensus is build among the members.
The jury gives the verdict of “Not Guilty” and the defendant is acquitted. At the end of the movie, juror No. 8 and juror No. 9, who have become friends exchange pleasantries and names. This movie was not a big box office success, but is considered as a classic. It is preserved in the US National Film Registry as a very culturally, nationally and aesthetically significant film. It did not win any Oscars even though it was nominated for 3 categories, best picture, best director, and best screenplay. It won the Golden Bean award at the 7th international Berlin film festival.

Twelve angry men (released in 1947) starring Henry Fonda, a gripping drama set in a jury room

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