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Movie Review: 12 Angry Men

An intriguing murder. A sweltering jury room. And twelve angry men.

The 1957 film, ‘12 Angry Men’, masterfully encapsulates the nuanced tenets of human nature, the art of convincing and lobbying, and an appeal to reasonableness.

The plot revolves around a murder case, wherein a teenager is accused of stabbing his father to death. The teen’s fate now lies in the hands of twelve jurors, strangers to each other, who must deliberate and submit a unanimous verdict of ‘guilty’, or ‘not guilty’ if reasonable doubt exists. If pronounced ‘guilty’, the teen faces the death penalty.

The murder case appears to be ostensibly straightforward at first, and the jurors, identified by their numbers throughout the film, take a preliminary vote among themselves and are unanimously inclined to announce the verdict as ‘guilty’. However, Juror 8 (acted by Henry Fonda) disrupts this consensus by voting ‘not guilty’ as he believes that a reasonable doubt exists and that the matter of life and death of an individual must not be ruled upon in haste.

Juror 8, through his respectable mien, careful observation of the different personalities in the room, and scrutiny of the many of facets to the case, eventually convinces the jurors to change their stances, and attain consensus. The deliberation that precedes this consensus, however, sheds light on the way various people think, and how their disposition affects their decisions. Atavistic, bigoted, aged, finicky, insouciant, meek, short-tempered, straitlaced – the jury room is packed with uniquely disposed of individuals, each having his opinion that Juror 8 alters through reasoning.

Unlike contemporary movies that are packed with glamour and action, this black-and-white film is set in only one room. And yet, it succeeds to capture viewers’ attention by giving immaculate importance to dialogue delivery and acting. The highlight on ‘mob mentality’ and the people skills that come into play in ordinary situations provides major lessons for film-viewers to apply in life.

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