Explosive courtroom drama

Still from the movie "12 Angry Men".  


Movie: 12 Angry Men (1957)

Cast: Henry Fonda, Lee J. Cobb, E.G. Marshall, Jack Klugman

“12 Angry Men” is a movie that is often quoted as being one of America's most ‘culturally, historically, and aesthetically significant' movies of all time. It is a movie that explores the many problems that a jury of 12 face in arriving at a common consensus. Directed by Sidney Lumet, this 1957 black and white movie is a work of pure genius, in aspects that among many include directorial skills and performances by the twelve-member all-male cast.


“12 Angry Men” starts with a jury of 12 men being dismissed by the judge after being reminded that their decision has to be unanimous. The jury is also reminded that a verdict of “guilty” will automatically imply that the defendant, a young teenage boy living in the city slums, will be sent to the electric chair. The alibi given by the accused was that he was watching a movie at the time of the murder, but he is unable to recollect the movie's name or the cast that starred in it.

An initial vote reveals that 11 out of the 12 jurors want the defendant to be pronounced guilty, with juror number eight being the lone objector. Juror number eight votes for acquittal not because he is convinced of the innocence of the boy on trial, but because he thinks there is “reasonable doubt”. Subsequent discussions among the jurors show that the murder weapon is not “strange and peculiar” as testified.

Doubts are also raised about the statements made by an old man who claimed to have heard the boy shout “I'll kill you!”. Doubts are also raised about the accuracy of the account of the sole eye-witnesses to the murder, a woman who lived across the street. How the jury sees through the flaws in the evidence and whether they pronounce the boy guilty or not forms the rest of the plot.


The performance by all 12 men is remarkable, with each having his own moral obligations and personal prejudices. Most notable is the performance of Henry Fonda, as juror number eight, who plays a plain-speaking philosophical idealist. Credit must also be given to the director, Sidney Lumet, for pulling off such a masterpiece in just one room with 12 men because of extraordinary screenplay.

Bottomline: ‘Life is in their hands. Death is on their minds.' The movie explodes like 12 sticks of dynamite.

ABHINAV S. completed Std XII from Sri Sankara Senior Secondary School

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Printable version | Aug 1, 2021 7:16:05 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/nxg/Explosive-courtroom-drama/article16043468.ece

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