Sunday, 26 May 2013

Keep It Classic Part 1: A Room Full Of Testosterone

Based on a book, adapted several times, paid tribute to by almost every popular and contemporary television show ever made. However, this film is the version of the story that is remembered and hailed as a masterpiece of film. But at what point does ninety minutes of men arguing in a small room sound entertaining. Let's check it out. This is 12 Angry Men.

12 male jurors have heard all the evidence from a case for first degree murder. They sit in the jury room with a knowledge that a guilty verdict will lead to a young boy's execution. Despite this, eleven of the twelve men have no problem to raise their hand for the guilty verdict. The final man, Juror #8 (Henry Fonda), holds the whole verdict in his hands as nothing can be done without a unanimous decision. The men begin to sit and discuss the evidence they have been presented with and, as tensions heighten, revelations are made, the feeling of claustrophobia sets in, and perspectives are argued. But can Juror #8 convince the men he is stuck with to follow his verdict, or will he be swayed the same way as all the others?

Karaoke was a hit in the courtroom

With only twelve real cast members, it would seem like there would not be a lot to talk about in acting. But it is not as it would seem. With more time, one could analyse every specific movement any actor makes. All twelve performers are flawless. Henry Fonda leads the pack, clad all in white, the moral man in modern times, even if the film is over 55 years old. Listed as the main character, which he is, but spends a lot of the film simply listening and observing but never stops acting. Lee J. Cobbs as the stubborn, arrogant, and angry Juror #3 is also fantastic. His powerful stage friendly voice ripples through the room and out of the television. Bringing most of the conflict to the table, he provides a vital, strong, and also touching performance. Finally - to go through all twelve will provide boring reading -also of a notable nature is Juror #9, played by the delightful Joseph Sweeney. Sweeney's portrayal shows the most strength out of all the characters, standing up for what he beliefs and resilient against challenges. Do not let his age and frail appearance fool you. This old dog has a nasty bite.

Meeting your partner's family for the first time.

But this film's genius comes not only from twelve outstanding performances; it comes from incredible writing and directing. Written, as a play, by Reginald Rose, the film boasts some of the most intelligent and exciting arguments which cause it to thrive in a dialogue heavy environment. An fascinatingly interesting plot with constant twists and turns that still leave the audience arguing as to what the final verdict should be. (See this thread on IMDb. Whatever your opinion is, you will be shocked by some of the arguments for either side.) All of this is brought brilliantly to life by Sidney Lumet's direction. Starting with higher, wider camera angles that, over the course of the film, slowly narrow and lower, creating the sense of claustrophobia. Being beautifully filmed is only one of the films perks. The timing and editing makes it a quick 90 minutes that, paradoxically, seems to drag on forever. The way in which the story unfolds and the aspects that are focused on more heavily create a dramatic atmosphere that could be cut with a knife. Fonda, who famously hates watching himself on film, told Lumet that it was magnificent.

Yes, a masterpiece of film is a fitting statement, perhaps not enough. Psychology students watch this film to analyse it. This film is so much more than moving images on a screen. This is a look at people and morality. It should be a demonstration of how drama should be done, in all its forms. It is simply brilliant.

Best Bit? When Fonda brings out his own knife. You suddenly realise the angle this film is coming from and you get comfy and enjoy.

An good idea of how well some of these characters fit archetypes. 

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