12 Angry Men (1957) - review

Door Janreviews gepubliceerd op Saturday 30 April 10:52

A jury of twelve men has to agree on the verdict of a young man who is accused of stabbing his father: guilty or not guilty; life or death. With the duration of the trial, the underlying motivations of some of the jurors and the scalding heat, this one-location court drama makes for a thrilling picture.

Ever since I saw its approval rating on IMDb, I knew I wanted to watch this film. Old films in general fascinate me, because they provide us with a look into the past. Today we look at these actors as from another world, but when “12 angry men” was released, they were the stars for whom people flocked to the cinemas.

Going into this film, I did not know it was going to be in one location, so I was pleasantly surprised. It reminded me of “Carnage” by Roman Polanski, which I highly recommend if you enjoy “12 angry men”. Both films look and sound like plays: they are driven by the performances of the actors. In the case of “12 angry men”, I literally mean ‘actors’, because there is not a single woman in this picture.

When the jurors entered the private room, I noticed that the takes were rather long. For a minute I was afraid that the film makers would try what “Birdman” attempted – making it look as if it was shot in a single take – but that luckily was not the case. I must admit that it did bother me how short some of the takes were. If I remember correctly, we always see the speaker: when two men are talking to each other, the camera always switches around.

The characters in “12 angry men” are very well-developed. Granted, not every single man has an interesting backstory, but I did feel like there were twelve individuals at that table.

I read on IMDb that the perspective is gradually lowered throughout the film to enhance the feeling of claustrophobia. That was really effective, because it is a finicky thing to spot. When the jurors leave the courthouse at the end – this is not a spoiler, I haven’t given away what the verdict is or how many men leave the courthouse – they used a very wide shot to contrast the feeling of release with the claustrophobic feeling of the private room. At that moment you realise how cramped up the jurors felt.

I definitely recommend this film to younger people, because this showcases a different type of film. There are no flashbacks or flashforwards, the story is not overly complicated and the film is not too long. “12 angry men” is brilliantly made, acted fantastically and unravels its plot piece by piece.  

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