In 1957, director Sidney Lumet released 12 Angry Men. The courtroom drama is set in New York City and follows a jury of twelve men who must come to a majority verdict about the fate of an 18-year-old charged with killing his father. It’s now considered one of the greatest films ever made, and it has been selected for preservation by the National Film Registry due to its cultural significance.
The film was adapted into a TV series that ran from 1997-1999 on ABC. One episode featured actor George Clooney as Miguel Ferrer – who played Juror #8 in the original movie (Juror #3).
In this blog, I’ll be talking about the 12 Angry Men review and what makes it extraordinary.
Background on the Film 12 Angry
Men are set in New York City. On his way home from work, a young Hispanic man, Santiago (played by Martin Balsam), steps into the line-up with other potential jurors for a murder trial. In the jury selection room, he meets eleven other individuals to become part of the jury for this trial – including some exciting personalities.
Over three days, they must decide whether this young man is guilty or not guilty with a majority vote. To help prove their case, both sides bring in witnesses to testify. They even have a few surprises up their sleeves to sway public opinion and try to convince each juror individually that they are right in their accusations.
During the movie, many arguments occur as each juror publicly debates their views on guilt or innocence. Each man’s opinion is very different from one another, and they must ultimately decide if they can trust their judgment or rely on public perception.
As the plot unfolds, we see how even the most seemingly insignificant evidence can mean the difference between life and death in this high-impact trial. In the end, only one man stands in the way of a guilty verdict – and he is persuaded to change his vote.
First impressions The original 1957 film has an all-star cast. They portray real people with personalities you can get attached to. You may not like some of their views, but each juror has good points to bring up in the discussion.
The acting is top-notch; it’s a great example of using camera angles and facial expressions to bring out real emotion from each actor and build suspense in the plot.
The movie takes place in an era when racial and social tensions were high. While this isn’t mentioned too directly, it is still portrayed in the characters involved in the trial; all of whom are primarily white men. Each juror had different values and beliefs about justice – but one thing was clear; they did not want to be seen as guilty of a crime.
The movie begins with the jury already assembled in the room, where they are faced with many questions about what role and responsibility as jurors mean to them. At this point, they haven’t seen much evidence from either side, but it doesn’t stop them from making accusations based on nothing.
We see how a variety of prejudices are prevalent in the jurors. Still, they hide behind excuses and compromise – while trying to decide on whether this person is guilty or innocent. The movie gets going once Juror #8 (Miguel Ferrer) questions one piece of evidence presented; he believes it could have been easily tampered with by the cops (who are viewed as corrupt due to an unrelated trial).
This leads to a lot of heated discussion between all jurors, and they ultimately decide to vote again – this time with Juror #8’s evidence in mind. When things get very interesting, the last quarter of the movie never really lets up its intensity.
I liked the fact that this movie shows a wide variety of possible attitudes towards racial tension. Juror #8 believes injustice strongly and how the evidence presented can have an immense impact on a person’s life. He is portrayed as someone who has solid morals, even though he doesn’t express them openly all the time.
The movie opens with various characters, and as more evidence is revealed about the murder that occurred – we learn a lot more about each person’s values, goals, and prejudices. Some of the jurors were undoubtedly more sympathetic than others, and they had the most exciting qualities that impacted the movie’s tone.
One of my favorite characters in this movie is Juror #8 – played by Miguel Ferrer (who also appeared as one of J.D.’s doctors on Scrubs). He was a powerful character that was very angry and didn’t care who knew it. As the movie goes on, we find out more about why he is so passionate; being someone who has experienced oppression first hand because of his race.
Juror #11 (John Fiedler – a known actor from The Munsters) also had incredible qualities that were very different from most other characters. At first, he was easy to disregard as just a quirky older adult, but there is more depth than meets the eye with this guy! He believed strongly in the justice system and that it should be respected – even if it meant upholding what may be a corrupt verdict.
Although these are two of my favorite characters, they are certainly not the only two that stood out in this movie. Juror #3 (Lee J. Cobb) plays a very prominent role in the film as well – and even though he is shady and deceitful at times, his motives are somewhat admirable. He wanted to do what was right, but he also wanted to protect a friend that had been wrongfully accused. He was the most morally questionable character, but he still played an essential role in changing his fellow jurors’ opinions about the case.
Other characters include Juror #4 (Edward Binns) and Juror #10 (Jack Klugman). They are both great actors – but unfortunately, their characters weren’t very well defined. They didn’t represent any of the themes or values that I mentioned above, and they were hard to pinpoint as a result.
Analysis of the movie themes.
The central theme in this movie is about the justice system and how every person involved (including the jury) can make a difference, regardless of their position. It touches on topics such as racism, corruption, and prejudice – which are apparent throughout. The jurors keep trying to justify their beliefs and actions because they don’t want to be labeled guilty by association. This was a powerful theme throughout the entire movie, and it allowed us to see these characters at their worst, which makes them easier to understand!
Another secondary theme in this movie is bravery. Juror #8 refused to give up, even when he was bullied into submission by his fellow jurors (who were biased against their race). As more evidence comes out, the jurors slowly start to change their minds, realizing that something is not correct. The system failed this kid, and it would have been a massive injustice if his life had ended because of the prejudice against one person’s ethnicity.
Recommendations For Further Reading or Viewing
I would recommend watching the movie first before reading this short analysis of ” 12 angry men – because the plot was explained in detail, and it will also help you understand the allusions to themes that were mentioned above. The movie isn’t very long either – so I think it’s worth it! You can view the trailer here!
The movie is an intense drama, and it certainly gives you a lot to think about. I’d give this movie a 4/5 star rating – and recommend that anyone who hasn’t already should watch or read it!