“He didn’t change his vote, I did!”
Back in the day, when Hollywood was at it’s peak, they turned to play-writes to script their movies. You can always tell a movie that is, or was, adapted from a stage play. There characters are a little more rounder, the stories a little more solid, they don’t depend on effects and music to carry them.
12 Angry Men, directed by Sidney Lumet and starring Henry Fonda (among so many others), is such a movie. Set almost entirely in one room, in real time, it’s the story of a twelve man jury on a hot summers day, coming together to decide the fate of a young hispanic man accused of murdering his father.
The entire story takes place in the jury room, starting as the twelve men enter to begin their deliberations. We know nothing about why they’re there, or what has gone before, and it is the genius of the unfolding story that keeps us hooked.
They vote immediately, just to see the lay of the land, and it comes out 11 to 1 in favour of guilty. Only Mr Davis (Fonda) is against condemning the man right away. He thinks he’s probably guilty, but he also thinks that when a man’s life is on the line they should at least discuss it a little before deciding.
What follows is an intricate and tightly woven exposition of facts and personalities that never once becomes boring or too complicated to follow. Each man is individual, and in his own way intricate to the plot. The film also makes an excellent commentary on the jury system, prejudice, the workings of society, and man’s innate frailties and flaws.
It’s no surprise to me that this film was nominated for 3 oscars – best actor, best director, and best movie (losing out in all 3 catagories to The Bridge on the River Kwai). It’s a remarkable film that engages you from the very beginning and leaves you at the end a little bit wiser about yourself and the world you live in. Now how many films can you think of that do that?