It was quite late (in my mid-20s) that I started watching Hollywood movies regularly and started to appreciate the really amazing ones. No, I am not talking about Titanic or Jurassic Park or James Bond. Of course, they were very well made and no taking away from the brilliance these movies depicted on the celluloid (taking that word from Karan Johar’s dictionary). But there were many subdued movies that were not meant to preach a great message or portray larger than life characters. These were probably the simplest of movies that were meant just to tell a simple story in a simple manner – like Serendipity, Night At The Museum, P.S. I Love You, Music and Lyrics, Blended, Jerry Maguire, 500 days of summer, Life is Beautiful and few more.
These movies, I would love to watch any time. However, “12 Angry Men” is one movie, and probably the only Hollywood movie, that I have actually watched at “any time”, over and over again, and even right now I feel like I can watch it one more time.
The movie is about 12 jurors trying to arrive at a verdict on the guilt or innocence of an 18 year old boy who is charged with his father’s murder. As they deliberate over it, they encounter different facets of a person’s character shaped by his experiences. The film boasts of distinctly diverse set of personalities having a hard time to build consensus. While some of them were victim of their biases, others were a result of their upbringing or just heeding to their rational thinking. It also explores different ways of persuasion and shows what works and what doesn’t.
What I personally love about this movie is that it tells a very compelling story in a simplistic set up with brilliant performances by all the actors, which makes me watch it again and again. No crazy chase sequences, no out of the world special effects, no larger than life characters. The dialog delivery and the expressions of each actor is near perfect. Technically as well, something which you won’t notice easily, the movie boasts of great camera work.
Although it was not a commercial success, the movie is regarded as one of the Hollywood classics and was remade in various languages around the world. It is often shown in business schools and other education institutes to teach persuasion techniques and conflict resolution. I came across the Hindi version of the movie during our group discussion training for the MBA schools.
At the end, it makes you think – and reminds, if you are watching it again – to be free of our biases while taking decisions and approach things rationally.
Some of the most amazing facts about the movie:
- Almost the entire movie has been shot in a single jury room, except for three minutes at various places – courtroom, outside courtroom, washroom adjoining the jury room.
- Not a single name is referred in the entire movie – jurors, accused, witnesses, victim, lawyers – except in the last few seconds where two jurors exchange names after coming out of the court house.
- The entire movie was made within 21 days, including rehearsals that lasted two weeks, and in 365 takes.
- None of the 12 actors (jurors) are alive today. Juror #5 (Jack Klugman) was the last to die on December 24th, 2012.
- Henry Fonda, producer and the actor in the film, never received his deferred salary for the movie as it failed commercially.
- The film has been selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress.
- It is ranked #2 in AFI’s all the greatest courtroom dramas
- The movie received three academy awards nominations but didn’t win any.