The 12 Angry Men are a jury, a body of peers chosen to decide the guilt or innocence of a teenager accused of murdering his father. They have heard the arguments of the district attorney and the defense lawyer. They have received instructions from the presiding judge. Now they are on their own. What will they do?
Rose has a lot to say about the responsibility of citizens chosen to serve on a jury. He stresses the importance of taking into account the question of ‘reasonable doubt’. It is soon evident that the majority of the men regard the assignment as a chore. To most of them, it is an open and shut case. The boy is guilty and they demand a quick vote. On the first ballot it is 11 to 1 for a conviction. Henry Fonda is the lone holdout.
Most of the action takes place in the one room on a hot summer day. The effect, rather than being confining, serves to heighten the drama. It’s not static, however, for Sidney Lumet, making his bow as a film director, has cleverly maneuvered his players in the small area. Perhaps the motivations of each juror are introduced too quickly and are repeated too often before each changes his vote. However, the film leaves a tremendous impact.
1957: Nominations: Best Picture, Director, Screenplay Adaptation