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Sidney Lumet's directorial debut is a snapshot of the American judicial system in action. Twelve average New York males convene in a very small jury room on a very hot day in order to reach a verdict in a murder trial. Almost everyone wants to vote guilty and get on with their lives except for Juror No. 8 (Henry Fonda), a conscientious citizen who insists on establishing reasonable doubt. Arguments are made, cigarettes are smoked, murder weapons examined, diagrams drawn, and prejudices revealed. Firm opinions weaken and reverse; voices get raised, the clock ticks, and a ghetto kid's life hangs in the balance.
Lumet's direction and camerawork steadily builds pressure into the plot. Things start out casual, but wind up so close and tight you can count the pores on the actors' noses. Fonda is good in a role well-suited to his extra-large sense of human dignity but the stealth giant in this actors dozen is the ferocious Lee J. Cobb. Jack Klugman, E.G. Marshall, Martin Balsam, Ed Begley, and Jack Warden play some of the other jurors, and a better assemblage of grizzled method actors shouting at each other won't likely come again. 12 ANGRY MEN was originally written for television, it is a true classic of the anti-McCarthy message era, and is not to be missed.
Lee J. Cobb - American actor, ON THE WATERFRONT, THE EXORCIST
Henry Fonda - Oscar winning actor, ON GOLDEN POND
Heny Jaynes Fonda - Oscar winning actor, ON GOLDEN POND
Jack Klugman - American Actor, THE ODD COUPLE (TV)
Ed Begley - Oscar-winning supporting actor, THE GREAT GATSBY/12 ANGRY ME
Edward Begley - Oscar-winning supporting actor, THE GREAT GATSBY/12 ANGRY ME
E.G. Marshall - TV and Film Star, played the President in SUPERMAN 2
Everett G. Marshall - TV and Film Star, played the President in SUPERMAN 2
Sidney Lumet - American director/producer
Reginald Rose - Screenwriter/Playwright
Martin Balsam - American actor
Robert Markell - Art Director
Carl Lerner - American Editor/Director
Jack Warden - American actor, SHAMPOO, HEAVEN CAN WAIT (1979)
Estimated budget: $343,000. The shoot lasted 19 days. The movie marked the feature-film directorial debut of Sidney Lumet. The film was remade for cable television in 1997, directed by William Friedkin, written again by Reginald Rose, and starring Jack Lemmon, George C. Scott, Courtney B. Vance, Ossie Davis, James Gandolfini, Tony Danza, and others.
"Best Courtroom Drama of All Time" - 06/01/1994 Premiere, p.119
"...This is a film where tension comes from personality conflict, dialogue and body language....The movie plays like a textbook for directors interested in how lens choices affect mood..." - 09/29/2002 Chicago Sun-Times, p.6
"...As the juror dead-set against a murder conviction, Henry Fonda had one of his greatest roles..." - 03/23/2001 USA Today, p.6E
"Fonda shines -- almost literally in a white suit -- as the soft-spoken, merciful Juror No. 8." -- Grade: A- - 03/07/2008 Entertainment Weekly, p.75
"[T]he textures of the film actively transform this righteous template into a bristly, suspenseful, heroic firefight..." - 01/01/2012 Sight and Sound