Reel Matt

This blog started as my movie marathon — watching a movie a day for a whole year — and has continued as a place for me to write reviews about movies, TV, and various other items.



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12 Angry Men

Film #205


A dissenting juror in a murder trial slowly manages to convince the others that the case is not as obviously clear as it seemed in court.

Year 1, Day 202

BEFORE: Going back again to 1957 is 12 Angry Men, up against previously seen The Bridge on the River Kwai. 12 Angry Men was nominated for three Academy Awards (Best Motion Picture, Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay) but lost in all three categories to the aforementioned The Bridge on the River Kwai. This is actually the director Sidney Lumet’s third film in this marathon, the previous two films being Dog Day Afternoon (all the way back on day 3), and Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead.

AFTER: I’ve never been called in for jury duty let alone sat on an actual jury, but I could imagine that the experience would be at least somewhat similar to the one in 12 Angry Men. The entire film takes place in the jury room (save for a brief opening scene in the court and one inside the bathroom - total of three minutes) where the twelve jurors are deciding wether or not an 18-year-old kid charged with first degree murder is guilty.

Now I know what you’re thinking, “This has got to be the most boring movie around, right? An hour and a half in a jury room!” Well, it’s not. And to explain why, I’m going to go off on a bit of a tangent and talk about the wonderful TV series, Cheers. If any of you have watched the show, you’ll know that the majority of each episode takes place inside the Cheers bar with the entire first season not even leaving the bar once (all 22 episodes took place in the exact same location). The reason I bring this up is because I remember being amazed at how much I liked that show. Not in a surprising way but in an impressed way. Until wasn’t until a few seasons in, when they began going to other locations, that I realized they never left the bar in season one. I was enjoying the show, the characters, and the humor so much, it never hit me that it was all in the same place.

As I was watching 12 Angry Men, a similar thing happened. I found myself forgetting that the film was taking place solely inside the jury room. Not until about halfway through the film when a few of the jurors take a bathroom break did it hit me, “Wow, that last fifty minutes was all spent in the same room discussing the case!” The reason I think this works extremely well is because of the momentum. 12 Angry Men doesn’t try to be like Life of Pi (another, mainly, one-location film) because that does have some action-packed moments, or even a film like Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (a more typical film, many locations) that similarly shows a small man fighting for and trying to prove his case. 12 Angry Men lives and dies with it’s characters and the dialogue between them. And the film does a great job at slowly building things up. It doesn’t put too much out in the beginning (which could overwhelm and simultaneously lead to disappointment at the end) nor does it save all the big stuff for the ending (which would create boredom early on). Instead, bit by bit, the characters are introduced and new wrinkles are added to the plot as the discussion goes on.

12 Angry Men is a well-executed an interesting film. The premise may seem a bit questionable before you watch it, but it definitely is worth your time to watch it. That being said, it’s not the best of the best. You’ll notice I had no real complaints about the film but I don’t think it’s deserving of the full five stars. In the same way that a film needs something bad for stars to be taken away, it should also have something special that gives it stars. 12 Angry Men didn’t have that something special, for me anyway, to make it stand out amongst other film.

RATING: 4 out of 5