After criticising ‘City of God’ for valuing plot too highly over visuals I must now admit that ’12 Angry Men’ was the very epitome of this imbalance… and I didn’t mind it one bit.
I can hear the cries of “double standards!!” from here… Allow me to explain.
Set almost entirely within a single room, with very little need for editing beyond a few close-ups, ’12 Angry Men’ is exactly that: 12 Angry Men. Nothing more. (Unless you count the table and chairs?)
The film follows the decision-making process of a jury in a murder case, and I suspect it is this strong link to my own version of reality that held me captivated in a way that ‘City of God’ could not.
Whoa, hang on… I’m not a murderer (I regularly have the mens rea required for murder – often coincidentally while travelling on public transport – however the actus reus remains… unproven…)
No, i’m not a murderer. I’m that other evil thing – the law graduate. I can therefore relate very closely to the subject matter, despite the fact that I will never be permitted to sit on a jury myself. You see, law graduates are exempt from eligibility, no doubt due to our capacity to intimidate fellow jurors with our legal mumbo jumbo.
Then again, several of the ’12 Angry Men’ manage to intimidate just fine without it!
At times it felt like I was watching an anti-bullying video in a rainy day PE class. When I have children of my own one day I intend to show the film to them as an example of just how to respond to bullies and how to avoid becoming one.
It’s an inspirational film; If not for Juror #8’s fine example of going against the crowd, then certainly for Juror #2’s pride in what might have made him the subject of bullying in real life. That is, his voice.
The actor who plays Juror #2, John Fielder, is most notable for his distinctive cartoonish voice, which has seen him play ‘Piglet’ in countless ‘Winnie the Pooh’ adventures. Far from disguising the abnormality to avoid ridicule, he has made his uniqueness his strongsuit, and made a fine living for himself in an industry that chews up and spits out aspiring actors every day. Let that freak flag fly, my friend!
The movie is, of course, a product of its time. For starters, women have since managed to weasel themselves into the juror ranks like the vile temptresses they are. Switchblades, on the other hand, are slightly less prevalent, thanks to the widespread installation of metal detectors. (For all those law nerds out there, the knife issue in ’12 Angry Men’ may remind you of the naughty jurors in the Skaf brothers cases…)
Rather than ruin the film for you with a play-by-play of the jury room, allow me to sum up with a memorable quote… (Everyone loves a lawyer joke, right?)
Juror #8: … It’s also possible for a lawyer to be just plain stupid, isn’t it? I mean it’s possible.
Juror #7: You sound like you met my brother-in-law.
If, like me, you still enjoy ‘Law & Order’ after 10 glorious years, you will love this film. It is elegant in its simplicity and will leave a permanent imprint on your moral code.
It is the film’s power to affect the viewer on such a deeply personal level that has informed my rating and, without reservation, I give this film 10 pumpkins.
Have you seen ‘12 Angry Men’? Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments below.