12 Angry Men
Hopefully you’ve already seen this. I saw it for the first time in middle school social studies. I remember rolling my eyes to myself before viewing (“This movie is almost as old as my mom!”) and then hating myself for liking it so much. It is the story of a jury deliberating on a murder trial. Everybody thinks he’s guilty except for one man (Henry Fonda’s #8) who has a reasonable doubt, and ends up spreading his reasonable doubt throughout the entire room. The film is a beacon of hope for all anti-fascist, free-thinking lovers of truth the world over.
The most incredible part of the film is that even though it takes place almost exclusively in the deliberation room, with the same twelve men for an hour and a half, it is utterly engrossing throughout. Indeed, Michael Bay could learn something here, as this 90-minute movie of pure dialogue manages to grip the viewer more than any explosion (or slow-rotating camera around Will Smith’s head) he’s ever filmed.
The entire cast puts on an acting clinic. Fonda is Fonda, of course, but Lee Cobb (principal antagonist), Robert Webber (the ad-man), George Voskovec (the immigrant), Ed Begley (loudmouth), and Joseph Sweeney (old man) are equally enthralling. There’s actually not a weak link here, neither in the cast nor the movie. It is quite simply perfect. In fact, it´s one of the more ludicrous things in the world that they made a remake of this in 1997 (with Tony freakin´ Danza!). I would have loved to sit in on that green-light meeting: “Well, let’s see. . . the original is absolutely perfect, and there´s no way we could ever approach the same level of quality (especially with Tony freakin´ Danza). . . but you know what? What the hell? Why not spend the money to remake one of the greatest movies of all time? What, you’re telling me that we could just air the original for a fraction of the cost? Oh come on now, be sensible! Lord knows nobody these days will suffer through that old black-and-white garbage.”
If you don’t see the original you will regret it for the rest of your life.
19 March 2010