12 Angry Men, screenplay and story by Reginald Rose
10 out of 10
A different version of this note and thoughts on other books are available at:
- https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLEVa4_CsRStSBBDo4uJWT8BSWtTTn0N1E and http://realini.blogspot.ro/
This is one of best films that you can see.
The New York Times’ Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made includes it:
It is directed by the Sydney Lumet, author of the excellent book:
- Making Movies
And also director of masterpieces like:
- Dog Day Afternoon, Network, Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead and other gems about which he talks in his great book
The cast is also magnificent:
- Henry Fonda, as juror 8 towers over everyone, but Martin Balsam, Lee J. Cobb and the others shine in their roles
Remakes of this chef d’oeuvre have been attempted, from America to Russia, but the results have been unremarkable, to say the least.
This is a remarkable and unique film.
Unlike the usual courtroom dramas, the action takes place in an intriguing location, where the jury is gathered.
The 12 Angry Men have to pass a verdict.
For all of them it is a clear and cut case, with the defendant evidently guilty of murder and soon to be convicted.
- For all, except one!
- Juror 8
And in this “real horror show” the audience has a chance to learn about the jurors, prejudices and psychological issues:
“Juror #8: [baiting him] I feel sorry for you. What it must feel like to want to pull the switch! Ever since you walked into this room, you've been acting like a self-appointed public avenger. You want to see this boy die because you *personally* want it, not because of the facts! You're a sadist!
[#3 lunges wildly at #8, who holds his ground. Several jurors hold #3 back]
Juror #3: I'll kill him! I'll - *kill him!*
Juror #8: [calmly] You don't *really* mean you'll kill me, do you?”
To make justice is very hard and especially when those involved are troubled, haunted, challenged or plain sick.
“Juror #3: [to Juror #8 about the El-Train drowning out the supposed death threat] You're talkin' about a matter of *seconds!* Nobody can be *that* accurate!
Juror #8: Well, I think testimony that can put a boy into the electric chair *should* be that accurate…
Juror #2: It's hard to put into words. I just think he's guilty. I thought it was obvious from the word, 'Go'. Nobody proved otherwise.
Juror #8: Nobody has to prove otherwise. The burden of proof is on the prosecution. The defendant doesn't even have to open his mouth. That's in the Constitution.
Juror #8: It's always difficult to keep personal prejudice out of a thing like this. And wherever you run into it, prejudice always obscures the truth. I don't really know what the truth is. I don't suppose anybody will ever really know. Nine of us now seem to feel that the defendant is innocent, but we're just gambling on probabilities - we may be wrong. We may be trying to let a guilty man go free, I don't know. Nobody really can. But we have a reasonable doubt, and that's something that's very valuable in our system. No jury can declare a man guilty unless it's sure.”
As these lines from the movie prove, this is a fabulous drama that gives food for thought and makes the audience wonder.
The themes are important and we can see how justice can be administered or just avoided, the importance of prejudice, what a determined man like Juror 8 can do and the opposite, different side of the coin:
- Without juror 8 in that room, the boy would have been condemned and the question is how many times something similar has happened?
- And then- was the boy guilty?
- What about O.J. Simpson?