12 Angry Men (1957)

By Chin

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.

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I would say, Results= Persistence + Buy-in!



Comments 2

  1. mug diller

    Just a wonderful film, rich character study. I enjoyed the differing camera angles, different lens choices and how the viewers POV influenced the mood. At the end of the movie Fonda walks out the doors of the courthouse. Does any one know how Sidney Lumet was able to get the landing outside the courthouse and the steps to shine as they do? The sidewalk and street, although wet, look like ’normal’ wet concrete. The landing looks like black marble, the steps as if coated with varnish or urethane.

  2. vincent chin

    Thanks for your comments. Yes, brilliant way to keep the audience hooked and not easy too, especially when almost the entire movie takes place in the same setting. I thought the actors’ delivery was a primary to the movie too… watch out for the breaking moments where each actor was ’converted’ to Honda’s viewpoint. I have not been to the courthouse… but I think it’s not surprising that the flooring was polished before the shooting took place. Worked in hotels… polishing the marbles parts is a norm, especially prior to big events.

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