Sunday, August 10, 2008

12 Angry Men (1957; Sidney Lumet)

While my taste in cinema tends to lean very heavily into the horror genre, I decided I would try as hard as I could to keep my entries as broad as possible to keep things a little more interesting for people who don't care as much for horror as I do. So with that in mind, I bring you my thoughts on the 1957 masterpiece, 12 Angry Men.

12 Angry Men can be summed up very quickly, as all but about five minutes of the film are shot in one single room. In what appears to be one of the easiest murder cases alive, the twelve jurors are sent in to determine if an eighteen year old from the slums was responsible for the murder of his father. With several witness statements stacked against the boy, it seems quite obvious to the jurors that the verdict is guilty. However, a single man, juror #8 (Fonda in a remarkably commanding role) thinks they should at least try and give the boy a chance before sentencing him to death.

I will go no further in my summary, for to ruin even one small piece of the jury's debate would be to spoil so much. One thing I will say, however, is that building up the guilty verdict before juror #8 brings up his first disagreement makes that first disagreement that much more powerful. Not only is Fonda left with the duty of changing the minds of the other eleven jurors, he has to change ours as well.

One thing to pay very special attention to, is the way the cameras are controlled. As the movie progresses, the general height of the cameras is dropped, which adds a sense of the room enclosing upon us as if it was already not small enough to begin with. At the beginning we are generally placed above the jurors, and by the end of the film, we are at their feet. An extra step that pushes us into that room with those men is the fact that the temperature of the room is made so palpable, you yourself might start to sweat.

There is mountains more I could discuss about how well crafted and shot the film was, but that would require me spoiling bits and pieces, and that is something I will refuse to do with such a film. So having said that, there is only one thing left to do.

Score: 5/5

Notes: Man Sweat, Man Anger, Men, No Women

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