The simplicity of 12 Angry Men is what makes it such a classic. You can imagine that if the movie was made today, it would not have been set purely in one room, with 12 men discussing and debating but crafted together with flashbacks, staged scenes of overt-drama and worst of all, a clear cut conclusion. Luckily, back in the 1950s, none of this was necessary.
Instead, the movie relies on the talents of the 12 men who make up the cast. They are relied upon to tell the story, piece together the puzzle and come to their own conclusions. The fact that the audience only know the story through the arguments of the characters is testament to the writing, as at no point do we need a refresher or to have seen the actual court case that places these 12 jurors in this room.
The case itself is perfectly crafted. At first it seems so simple and 11 of the men want to find the man guilty but luckily for the defendant, Henry Fonda’s Juror Number 8 is on hand to cast doubt and what a great job he does. Slowly but surely the debate becomes a mystery and the jurors play detective, coming to their own conclusions and discovering the truth of what happened.
It is so well written that even though the cast is made up of 12 very different characters, they all get their chance to shine. Their own lives and prejudices often play into the case and helps craft the characters perfectly. You get a sense of who they are, why they made their decisions and what fuelled their verdict. It also becomes so much more satisfying as you see their arguments fall apart and the realisation that the case may not be as simple after all.
All of this takes place in just one single room. 12 Angry Men is based on a play but that wouldn’t stop modern studios extending this out of the one room. Here the brave choice to keep the men locked, trapped in blistering heat, with cabin fever setting it, really helps to build the tension and makes the conflict between them seem so much larger.
The real hook of the movie is the central mystery though and this is where the film demonstrates it’s bravery. Watching as men pace the room, look over weapons and even try them on each other and then debate the time it would take to get from one end of a corridor to another, all within the same small, dingy set, makes for great drama and helps keep you invested in the jury’s eventual decision.
Overall, 12 Angry Men is often heralded as a classic and it is easy to see why. It manages to create drama from a small room, consisting of 12 men arguing. Although these performances are good, it is the central mystery and the way this develops and is eventually solved is what manages to keep your attention throughout.
Rating – 5!
(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)