Review: 12 Angry Men | The Criterion Blogathon

This post is part of the Criterion Blogathon, hosted by these lovely peeps: Speakeasy, Silver Screenings, Criterion Blues

Happy happy blog-a-thon, blog-a-thon, blog-a-thon! Happy happy blog-a-thon, Silver Shamrock!

Huh? Oh, sorry, it’s within a month of Halloween, so I still have that peskily catchy Season of the Witch jingle lodged in my head. Manages to fit quite nicely in with this, though. I could even slot in “Screenings” for “Shamrock,” and we’d have one of the host blogs…hmmm…Anyways, that’s not important right now, what we’re hear to talk about is a lovely film, a masterpiece of the 50’s, and perhaps the greatest courtroom drama ever crafted, 12 Angry Men.

12 Angry Men is a 1957 American film directed by Sidney Lumet, and starring at least a dozen actors, the highest profile cast member being Mr. Henry Fonda himself as Juror #8. That’s right, for those of you not in the 12 Angry Men fandom already, none of the jurors are assigned names. “But wait,” you ask, “How can I keep track of all of them with only numbers? Wouldn’t that be confusing?” Oh, you’d think that, now wouldn’t you? But, worry not, for there is nary a sight of poor writing in this film, nor a smidgen of bad acting. The film juggles its jurors remarkably well, juggling 12 mainstays as well, if not better than Ocean’s Eleven did with one less to keep track of.

For the purposes of this review (and because I genuinely wanted to), I purchased the 12 Angry Men Criterion Collection blu-ray, a flawless transfer with just the right amount of old-style film grain for my liking. The remastering is beautiful, and even thinking about how the restoration process is carried out makes me baffled. Film remaster-ers may very well be the unsung heroes of home media. Let’s hear it for them, huh?

Even excluding the phenomenal job done by the folks over at Criterion, the film holds up from a dramatic standpoint. As previously stated, the performances are all phenomenal, and the writing is fantastic. While Juror #8 is certainly the protagonist, he is far from being awesome hero-man, and is believable as a human being. Here’s a brief summary of the plot: A 12-man jury is given a seemingly straightforward case. A boy from the slums is accused of murdering his father, with seemingly damning evidence thrown against him. The jury is divided, due to one juror who will not vote guilty without a discussion. As the discussion moves forward, it becomes clear that the case was not as open-and-shut as it appeared.

And boy, is the discussion a phenomenal piece of writing. 12 Angry Men might just be one of the greatest, straightforward screenplays put to screen. Each juror has a clear character and motivation, nobody’s a caricature, but each is an easily identifiable archetype. There’s the blue-collar worker, the immigrant, the salesman, the hero (Henry Fonda), the white collar stock broker, the wise old man, the crotchety not-as-old-man, and so on, and so forth. However, these do not come across as stereotypes, each is still layered and multifaceted, with more than a single dimension to define their character. It’s always believable when a juror changes his vote, and never comes across as forced.

The direction of 12 Angry Men is beautiful, with amazing long takes, fantastic lighting, and beautiful camerawork. The small space of the jury room is taken full advantage of, and, when the courthouse is finally exited, there’s a catharsis of sorts, with pulled-back shots, zoomed way out, as if the cameraman is as happy as we are to have room to breathe.

The film deals even-handedly with the case itself, never fully disproving the boy’s guilt, though, as stated within the film, it doesn’t have to. All a jury has to do is to find a reasonable doubt, and there are several.

12 Angry Men is a film for the ages, a classic that has stood, and will continue to stand the test of time. Impeccable and implacable, 12 Angry Men easily earns an A+.

a plus grade

Do make sure to check out the rest of the blogathon, if you so desire. I can’t make you do anything. Or can I?

God, you have to love Bach. That song is phenomenal. What was I saying? Oh, yeah, thanks a heap for reading through this, my thoughts. If you’ve got something to say, go on and take it away. Oh no, I’ve started quoting Toby Mac! That’s a clear sign that it’s far too late, and I’ve been writing for far too long. So, farewell and adieu!

Once again, thanks to the lovely folks at these 3 blogs:

Speakeasy, Silver Screenings, Criterion Blues

Without you, there would be no Criterion Blogathon, and therefore, no post here. So, I give my sincere thanks for the incomprehensibly difficult job of hosting this, and coordinating all these rowdy bloggers. A very emphatic, and very sincere, textual tip of the hat to all three of you.

15 Comments Add yours

  1. You make a good point about the lack of stereotypes in this film. It would be so easy to fall into that trap, but the filmmakers skillfully avoid it.

    I’ve had my eye on this Criterion Blu-ray for a while, and you’ve convinced me to just buy it already!

    Thanks for joining blogathon…and for bringing 12 Angry Men with you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re welcome, and thank you.
      I was worried I wouldn’t be able to snag 12 Angry Men before someone else picked it. This was fun to write, an I look forward to reading the other entries.


  2. I’m gonna watch this in the weekends 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Kristina says:

    A real acting showcase and good one to choose for this blogathon, thanks for joining in!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re welcome, thank you for having me!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. stevedallas says:

    Brilliant, brilliant movie. What tent pole action movie has ever been made that’s even half as gripping as this?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There certainly isn’t one, though I am as much a fan of action thrill rides as I am one of dialogue-driven drama.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Wendell says:

    What a truly great film this is. Your statement about the pulled back camera at the end feeling like the camera man happy to have room to breathe is so true. This is especially poignant given that the shots have been gradually growing tighter throughout the rest of the film invoking a sense of claustrophobia. Wonderful observation.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! The film really pulls in tight on the camera near the end, the close-ups practically show the pores of the jurors.


  6. Gosh, I remember this being on TV a lot when I was a kid, and it looked like the supreme snoozer (lots of what seemed to be old men talking endlessly). Now that I have some patience and taste, I’ll have to check it out.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. As a kid, I would have hated this! It’s actually very good, and worth checking out.


  7. Jay says:

    I adore this movie, truly!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. This is a fine, interesting article. I enjoyed reading it, and I look forward to reading more of your articles in the future.

    By the way, I would like to invite you to join my blogathon, “The Great Breening Blogathon:” It is celebrating the life and work of Joseph Breen, the enforcer of the Motion Picture Production Code between 1934 and 1954. As we honor his birthday, which is on October 14, we will be discussing and analyzing the Code era, breening films from other eras, and writing about our own ideas for classic movies. One doesn’t have to agree with the Code and Mr. Breen to enjoy that! I hope you will do me the honor of joining. We could really use your talent!

    Yours Hopefully,

    Tiffany Brannan


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