There is nothing original about a courtroom drama. These stories fill prime-time television as much as they do the big screen, and it has been this way for decades and decades, and yet somehow 12 Angry Men remains remarkably original fifty years after it was made. Somehow, while staying in the genre, 12 Angry Men doesn’t ever need to spend time in the courtroom. Able to convey the entire courtroom drama without ever showing the courtroom is the sign of fantastic writing, which it was, careful direction, faithfully carried out by Sidney Lumet, and twelve engaging actors, and there is no arguing the effectiveness of the ones chosen for this classic.
It may seem a cliché to claim once again that this film is just as good as it was fifty years ago, so I will go a step further and boldly claim that it has improved with time. Just looking at the failed attempts over the years to recreate the tenacious energy contained in the small juror room of 12 Angry Men is as obvious a sign of increasing value. The longer this film stays on the top of the genre, the more valued it should become, and I certainly can’t think of any film even coming close to this one in simple brilliance.
Henry Fonda stars as the one man on the jury that thinks the young man is not guilty of the murder he is accused of. Using a calculating eye and piecing together details missed by the incompetent lawyer, Fonda starts to sway some of the men on the jury. Others are in a hurry just to leave and get on with their daily lives, so they stick stubbornly to the guilty conclusion, but as the rest of the men start to examine the facts every one is forced to look at the details closer and come to a true conclusion they can all proudly say they believe in. The other jurors are played by Lee J. Cobb, Ed Bergley, Jack Klugman and a number of fantastic and memorable character actors.