Tuesday, November 28, 2006

12 Angry Men

This is what I think I am best at writing – reviews of movies that I have watched. After coming to the US of A, this has been “THE Thing” that we had been doing most of the time. Read up about old movies on the imdb website and place holds for those movies in the public library and spend all free tea-times, lunch/dinner times and weekends watching these movies.

One movie that I accidentally placed hold for was “12 Angry Men”. We were in a comedy spree watching Jack Lemmon’s movies and somehow I misread that this movie featured Jack Lemmon. But, after watching this movie I felt that I was so lucky to have made a “mistake” else we would never have watched this absolutely superb and gripping classic tale.

The whole 1 and 34 minutes of the movie, except for about 3 minutes, has been short in a small, dingy and closed room. The tale begins on a hot and sultry summer evening with the judge requesting the 12 jurors to come up with a unanimous decision based on the proceedings that they had been a part of the past 7 days. The case is about a teen kid of about 18, from the slums beaten, trodden upon and ill-treated all his life, is accused of murdering his tyrant father. All the men come in shuffling into a room, few of them muttering that it should be a quick decision to make. One of the jurors takes up the responsibility of consolidating the decision and suggests that they take a quick vote. The mode of the entire movie sets-in , as 11 men vote the accused “Guilty” and 1 person “Not Guilty”. The other 11 are shocked to find that one of them could even consider the possibility of “Not Guilty”.

Henry Fonda plays the role of this juror who believes that there could be a “Paasibility” (it sounds like this when he keeps repeating the world possibility all thru the movie) that the boy could be “Not Guilty”, with great elegance and absolute conviction. He is not sure if the boy is Guilty and at the same time does not have proof to his innocence, so he requests that the other jurors participate in a discussion by which they can confirm their decision with facts. Reluctantly the others agree and the narration proceeds to show how each single clue presented in the case is analyzed to check its validity. The initial apathy of the jurors changes slowly, as does the audience’s, as each lost point in the trial comes to light in favor of the accused.

What I liked most about the movie is how close it is to real life. The characters of the 12 people are so realistic that you can easily identify yourself or your friends in them. Juror 1 is the calm cool person who acts as a mediator and keeps the group in harmony – a born moderator. Juror 2 is the typical shy type who will give into accepting another person’s opinion instead of standing against a group of bullies to put in his point. Juror 3 is the typical arrogant, loud mouthed person who feels that all he knows is right and that if he pronounces the verdict Guilty it cannot be that others disagree with him. Juror 4 is totally convinced by the facts of the case that prove that the kid is Guilty – he is emotionless and is moved only by the truth of facts. Juror 5 is prejudiced against teen kids because his own turned out to be ungrateful by running off. Juror 6 & 7 are the ‘i-don’t-care-what-is-happening-I-will-just-support-the-majority-group’ type.

The fact that a person’s life is totally dependent on their decision does not sink into the heads of most. After all, they are not related to the person in anyway and he is just one another slum boy, whose race itself is full of murderers and robbers. One or two of them are more concerned about a game ticket that they purchased for the evening or getting home in time for dinner.
The director and script writer have done a great job in bringing these small faucets of characters to light.

I am a sucker for character analysis & suspense, which is why Agatha Christie is one of my favorite writers. For somebody who is like me, and for all others also, this one is a MUST SEE!


Usha said...

Nice review - yes, you are good at this!

I loved the persuasiveness with which Fonda subtly turns them around such that even the one who is so totally convinced of the guilt begins to vacillate.

Apollo 13 is another one which the I enjoy where every character makes an impression.

Vidhya Rajesh said...

$$Usha - You know Usha - you stump me... Everytime I write about a movie, I feel that probably nobody I know would have heard of this, because when I was in Chennai I knew so little about the really great classic English movies... your knowledge sooooo amazes me ... you are one great lady ! I admire you so much !

PS Apollo 13 is something i need to catch up on!

Tejas Caesar said...

Even I saw this movie around 3 years back...

Lovely movie.... seriously!

Gomathi Sarma said...

I think I shd defenitely get this one and see for myself. Task for this weekend

archana said...

I loved this movie so much. It just shows how the art and craft of cinema can survive very well even when the story is about a bunch of people in a closed room.

Anonymous said...

thank's for this great review. i have auditions for this play in a couple of days and haven't had time to watch the movie yet and your character analysises have been very helpful. although if you had told about all the jurors instead of just the first seven it would have been better. thank you anyways!

Vidhya Rajesh said...

$$Archana - Thanks for stopping by at my blog :). Yes you are right - this movie just proves that to get a good movie you don't need anything but a well thought over story and some really good actors - not fancy locations / songs/ stunts.

$$ Anonymous - Thanks !! It feels nice to know that somebody liked you work a lot. Thanks for the appreciation. All the best for your role play!