The first time I watched Sidney Lumet’s 12 Angry Men (1957) was four years back, at a Six Sigma leadership workshop. We were only 3 days into a two week long training, and some of us were already stretched to optimal stress levels. Being a bit more of an action buff, and being after a buffet lunch when training resumed I thought I’d grab extra coffee just in case. Little did I know a few years down the road I would have watched this movie a few more times.
Except for a bathroom break scene almost the entire movie takes place in the jury room. The film starts off in a relaxed manner- except for Henry Fonda most of the jurors are more than eager to vote and ‘get out of here….’. Tension and conflict increases as the story unfolds. I read in a web article Sidney Lumet used wide angle lens at the beginning of the movie but the cameras closes up as the movie progresses thus creating that claustrophobic feel. Rain and the sweat of the afternoon add to the effect too.
12 jurors- 12 totally different contrasting characters- the big arrogant bully, the thinker, the wise, the amiable, the persistent and persuasive, the follower, placed in conflict; read ‘corporate world’ please. No wonder this film is a favorite case study in corporate trainings. Straight and engrossing. No special effects, but plain tight intense acting. Tough guy Lee J. Cobb delivers the last jury vote in classic style. Henry Fonda’s character, Juror Number 8, reminds me of the Six Sigma guy- alone in opinion at the beginning, but having the facts separated from perception. Along the movie, he craftily tackles the different social styles of the competition and challenges their opinion. This character teaches a thing or two about staying focused on course and not buckling under pressure. The best scenes are the moments of buy-in as the camera zooms in on each character.
I would say, Results= Persistence + Buy-in!