Monday, January 11, 2010

#17 12 Angry Men - Not the Tony Danza version

1957. dir. Sidney Lumet, starring Henry Fonda, Lee J. Cobb, Ed Begley, E.G. Marshall, Jack Klugman, Martin Balsam.

Seen it before? Yes.

There's a reason why I can't stand when Sam writes first. It's because he gets the plot summary out of the way immediately and then interjects his own experience with the movie. The latter I have no real problem with. The former makes writing my blog post difficult.

Aside from Henry Fonda my favorite juror was #11 George Voskovec - the immigrant juror. I liked that he took notes to get a better idea of where Henry Fonda was coming from and then use his notes to help convince other jurors that Fonda wasn't just speaking out of his ass.

The thing is, when I first watched this movie many moons ago as a kid in junior high, and then again in high school, I was disturbed by how 12 people can go into a jury room with evidence that is incomplete and just vote unanimously (you're right, one person stood his ground followed by others) for someone to be put to death. (Yes, naysayers, what if the person actually did commit the crime? That's not my point right now so just shut up for a moment.) It bothers me that a jury of ones peers can think, "oh, this is open and shut" when there's reasonable doubt of a person's guilt. And while I know that those on a jury spend a great amount of time deliberating the fate of someone's innocence or guilt, I think the reason that this movie was so powerful for me was because even if you don't know the person whose life you are deciding from any other stranger on the street, there will be something you relate to and so your position will be influenced by that relation.

Everybody in that room had a conscience. Everybody in that room had something that would make up his mind about whether the kid was guilty or not even without all the evidence. I believe this movie is in the position it is on the list because, as Brian Rathjen wrote on under the synopsis "As the deliberations unfold, the story quickly becomes a study of the jurors' complex personalities (which range from wise, bright and empathetic to arrogant, prejudiced and merciless), preconceptions, backgrounds and interactions. That provides the backdrop to Mr. Davis' attempts in convincing the other jurors that a "not guilty" verdict might be appropriate." Couldn't have said it better myself!

Would I watch it again? Yes, and I probably would use it as a teaching tool as well!
Would I add it to my collection? Yes
And yes there is a Tony Danza version...this one from 1957 is NOT it!

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