Matt’s List of Movies (1059 movies) ● Matt’s Chart of Movie Reviews (781 reviews) ● The Gunnther Awards
Opinion of the Week (Aug. 31 ‒ Sept. 5, 2015)
Review: 12 Angry Men (1957) 6+
If you had asked me ten years earlier if I would watch this movie out of self-motivation, I would have denied it based on my low interest level at that time, though there's reasonable doubt that I would have stayed at that low interest level my whole life. Related to that low level, this is not my kind of movie, an old black-and-white serious courtroom drama. But I keep hearing about it, it's one of the best reviewed movies of all time, and it was the highest ranking movie on IMDb's Top 250, that's not R rated, that I hadn't previously seen. And maybe it had a good story. In the story, 12 jurors, known in the courtroom only by their numbers 1 through 12, deliberate on the elaborate trial they've listened to and discuss whether an 18-year-old boy (who probably should have been referred to as an 18-year-old man) is guilty of the murder of his father. Initially, all jurors believe he's guilty, except #8, played by star Henry Fonda, who doubts the boy's guilt, and the reason why he suggests he's not guilty is because he's careful about human life and wants to talk about it for a while before he condemns the boy to the death penalty. **spoiler ahead** The judge informs the jury that their verdict must be unanimous; if the defendant is to be executed, all 12 jurors must agree on a guilty verdict; if the defendant is to be acquitted, all 12 jurors must agree he's not guilty. If anyone disagrees, they have to talk about it and deliberate until all of them agree. With the jury 11 to 1 in favor of the accused being guilty, it's more likely that the one who thinks he's innocent will come to agree with the other 11 and vote guilty. But as the plot evolves, the other 11 jurors each change their minds in favor of the not guilty verdict. That makes for an unlikely, interesting, and unique story. Here's what I don't like about it. There's not enough variety in the setting. There's nothing that takes place before the trial, and the bulk of the trial isn't shown either. 99% of the story takes place in the jury deliberation room. After the jury reaches their unanimity, they are not shown delivering the verdict in the courtroom. It's interesting that the jurors are known as numbers instead of names, and it's good that they each have various personalities and objectives, but no one out of the jury has any personality. We don't get to know anything of the judge, the accused, or the families of anyone involved. Also, the story is more about the jurors trying to find the doubt, not the truth. I wondered and hoped that there would be something that one of the jurors knew that the others didn't. For example, did the one who believed he wasn't guilty have that knowledge because he actually committed the murder? The last juror to come to the not guilty agreement had the most angry kind of personality, and I wondered, was he so insistent on the guilty verdict because he committed the murder and was trying desperately to cover it up? No, all they were trying to do was come up with enough doubt that the accused committed the murder to make a guilty verdict unethical. Also, though there is some anger demonstrated by some of the men, there's not enough of it to justify a "12 Angry Men" title.
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