“12 Angry Men” was one of those movies whose name I had heard thrown around for a long time and really had no idea what it was about. This was also the first movie on my list that I didn’t watch via Netflix streaming. I received the DVD on Friday, but I had to wait to watch it because I had drill over the weekend. This film was nominated for best Director, Picture, and Adapted Screenplay but was beat out in all three categories.
Should this film be considered a classic? Definitely. I think one of the marks of anything considered a “classic” is how well it weathers the test of time. “12 Angry Men” has aged incredibly well. It was a critical success when it originally hit the screens and remains just as taut and dramatic today as it was fifty years ago. I found each of the performances by the actors playing the twelve jurors to be very strong and well developed considering how little actual character development there is. The actors had to make us believe that each of them had just come off the streets from some type of background and lifestyle and each of them only had a relatively small amount of screen time to sell their characters. The film delves into issues of nature versus nature, the judging of people based solely upon their social status, and how issues in our personal lives can often cloud clear thinking and sound judgement.
Also, the film has some great camera work. Probably around eighty percent of the film takes place in one small room with only short sequences at the beginning and end of the film and a couple of scenes in a washroom breaking up movie. The fascinating thing about cinematography is how throughout the runtime of the movie the filmmakers slowly pull us in ever closer to the people. The small room gets steadily smaller and more claustrophobic as they went from wider shots to close up shots with a very shallow depth of field. This forces the viewer to focus on the faces of the jurors as each of them weighs the fate of the accused and allows us to see little things like sweat dripping off of a bald head as one of the jurors was confronted with the weaknesses of his guilty vote.
Would I own this film? Yes, I would. I found this film to be a very enjoyable movie to watch because of the great performances by all involved. While Henry Fonda receives top billing in the movie, all twelve jurors had to have equally strong performances in order for this movie to work. I really enjoyed watching the interactions between the characters and seeing how they brought their backgrounds into the jury room and how those backgrounds played out in their decision making process. This is definitely a movie that I think just about anyone could enjoy and it is certainly a classic courtroom drama.