Did I watch this film because my English class was reading the script for the play version? Yes. Was it on my watchlist before I knew we were going to watchlist? Actually yes. But it wasn’t really a random movie from my watchlist? Technically yes. Wouldn’t that negate the whole purpose of this series? Also yes, but I make the rules here so that doesn’t matter.
I did just bull-crap my way into a reviewing a movie that wasn’t truly selected at random from my Letterboxd watchlist, but it’s actually a timely film to talk about, despite first glance. The Central drama department just wrapped up their run of the play 12 Incompetent Jurors, and it seemed like a bright idea to review the movie the production was based on.
A quick disclosure: this will only be a review of the movie, so hopefully you were able to attend one of their three performances on October 22nd, 23rd, or 24th.
The premise, as the name implies, is incredibly simple. There are, of course, 12 jurors deciding the fate of an 18-year-old boy, who may or may not have murdered his father. With the jury room acting as the only setting for the entirety of the movie, the majority of the tension is a result of a perfectly crafted script working in tandem with a perfectly casted group of actors.
The most noticeable thing about the film was just how gripping it was. It didn’t need an extravagant set to captivate my attention, as I was fully enthralled with the film from beginning to end right when the discussions began. It was extremely well-paced, with Henry Fonda’s character leading the discussion on the possibility the boy could be innocent.
It’s also important to mention how each character is set up flawlessly, and even if they’re not one of the more important jurors, get their moments that establish their character in ways many movies today whiff on. Take juror 2 for example. We get a great interaction right at the start of the movie between him and Lee J. Cobb’s juror 3. They discuss how this is 2’s first time being on a jury, and it gives the audience the perfect insight into one of the film’s more minor characters.
This is one really good example of how the film is able to introduce its characters with only the care and intricacy director Sidney Lumet can deliver. It’s even more impressive to then learn that 12 Angry Men was Lumet’s directorial debut.
There isn’t much else to add on the film, but each every aspect not already mentioned, like the cinematography and score, work seamlessly with the other parts of the film to keep everything laser-focused on the relationship the men share with each other.
When I first saw this ranked as the 7th best narrative film on Letterboxd, I felt very skeptical. I had never heard much about the movie before reading the stage version in English, and once I read the synopsis, it seemed even more boring. What could you possibly have gotten out of an hour and thirty minutes of men arguing? Well, you get one of the most emotionally rewarding films to ever be released on the big screen. While it isn’t the flashiest, it’s straight-to-the-point narrative and powerful performances give this movie a feeling of timelessness not many other films can match.
5 out of 5 stars.