Watching 12 Angry Men

Bowing to the insistent demand from SI reader guruprasad, we went over to Blockbuster yesterday and borrowed 12 Angry Men (guru, you owe us $2.03 or we’ll settle for a Vidyarthi Bhavan Masala Dosa).

Released in 1957, 12 Angry Men is acclaimed director Sidney Lumet’s first shot at direction.

Yes, Sidney Lumet. The same bloke that brought us the lovely Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead.

The movie features Henry Fonda, Lee J. Cobb and E.G. Marshall among others

Apparently, but for three minutes the entire movie was filmed in one room.

According to Wiki:

In 2007, 12 Angry Men was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.

We’ll have an update to this post in a few hours after we finish watching the movie.


12 Angry Men is a masterpiece.

Unbelievable that a first-time director (Sidney Lumet) could put out such an extraordinary movie using no more than 12 ordinary characters in a nondescript jury room.

This Black and White movie is great not merely from a movie-making perspective but also for the insight it provides into the human soul.

We’ve always held a low opinion of humans – most are little more than clothed beasts. 12 Angry Men only confirmed our belief.

Even when a man’s life hangs in the balance, how some of us are moved only by our prejudices, our callousness, our petty desires of wanting desperately to go to a ball-game, how our past can come in the way of a reasoned decision, our carelessness in failing to notice key facts that yell out to be noticed or the desire of some to invent reality for the sake of a few minutes of attention in an uneventful, ignored life (we can’t tell more lest we give away crucial details).

We’ve watched Indian movies for several decades and not once has any of them even remotely approached 12 Angry Men.

This movie proves that to make a masterpiece you don’t need to step out of a single room. No need for those expensive trips to Namibia, Peru or Switzerland featuring Hrithik Roshan, Rajinikanth or Sharukh Khan.

Henry Fonda, Lee Cobb (you’ll know who he is should you watch the movie) and Joseph Sweeney (the old man) stand out in an all-round fine performance by everyone.

The story and brilliant screenplay is by Reginald Rose.

After watching 12 Angry Men, you’ll never think of justice the same way again. We promise you that. strongly recommends 12 Angry Men.

If you live in the U.S., 12 Angry Men should be available at Blockbuster (some stores, not all) or Netflix.

18 Responses to "Watching 12 Angry Men"

  1. chaitu1987   April 2, 2009 at 9:38 pm

    What about Salangai Oli then? I assure you that if you don’t like it, I will never mention Telugu cinema to you again. You’ve promised me that you would watch a Telugu movie. Why not a dubbed version then? Responds:

    No, we haven’t forgotten our promise. We will, soon.

  2. chaitu1987   April 2, 2009 at 10:08 pm

    by the way the slumdog DVD is supposed to contain a hard hitting documentary.

    chances are that you didn’t get the original Responds:

    You are wrong. We got the original DVD.

    Read the comments at the end of Rewatching Slumdog Millionaire and follow the links.

  3. I. M. Legend   April 3, 2009 at 12:26 am

    Better than “Devil..”? Responds:

    Yes, absolutely.

    The very notion of making a movie that’s set in just one room with a cast of 12 characters (all men, no women) and a gripping movie at that.

    The characters are nameless (well, almost). Hey, we could go on but we’ll stop just in case you want to see the movie.

    When you stop to think of it, the points that come up are all simple points but brilliantly presented.

    The meticulous screenplay is the hero of the movie.

  4. chaitu1987   April 3, 2009 at 2:59 am

    Should watch this movie.
    I’d recommend “To kill a Mockingbird”. Did you watch it?
    I’ve read the novel first. Great novel. the movie is a good adaptation. Responds:

    No, haven’t seen To Kill a Mocking Bird.

  5. gawker   April 3, 2009 at 10:20 am

    Bollywood made a copy of this movie, don’t recollect what it was called. I think Naseeruddin Shah was in it.

  6. gawker   April 3, 2009 at 10:22 am

    “Ek ruka hua Faisla”. Naseeruddin wasn’t in it.

  7. IAmAnIdiot   April 3, 2009 at 10:40 am

    The favo idiot is back to bash! Meanwhile got busy with some of my upcoming blog stuff.
    1. Why do waste your time in watching these crap ones..If you go to only Red-Box cheapo, then try ‘The Lucy Ones’ by Tim Robbins.
    2. If you can watch a Tamil: Mahanadhi by Kamal Hasan (Early 90’s)
    3. If you want a Hindi: Zakkam (Directed by: Mahesh But, Ajay Devgan…Late 90’s)
    4. If you want a old horror: Shinning (Jack Nicholson, Early 80’s classic)
    5. If you want a fine combo (A Bronx Tale (1993): Directed by Robert De Niro. With Robert De Niro, Chazz Palminteri –Available in many Hollywood videos)
    6. Need a Latest spice: The Dark Night: (Perfect Screen play, Sharp Editing, fitting fine music, great narration) –A Hollywood entertaining Masala.
    7. Tamil drama (Kilakku Cheemaylee – Brathiraja movie)

    If you like the above, then tell us we provide our next set of Favorites! If you don’t like them, then you are definitely a Slumdog Milllionaire!!! Responds:

    1. You write: Why do waste your time in watching these crap ones..

    12 Angry Men was not a crap movie. It’s a fine movie.

    2. We have seen and reviewed some of the movies on your list:

    Dark Knight

  8. IAmAnIdiot   April 3, 2009 at 11:26 am

    The first two line of your Zakkam review as Follow:
    1. We’ve always been of the view that Ajay Devgan is a mediocre actor.
    2. And Zakhm (1998) does not change our view.

    When your subject is to write a review on a movie, you started the review with your perception about the hero of the movie and in second line by saying he is useless in the movie, you proved that you need to attend classes for basics of writing a movie review!

    Another thing I forgot that being a Madrasi you may not followed this movie, hence ended up observing the hero…am I right? Responds:

    1. Here are the third and fourth sentences of our Zakhm review:

    Still Zakhm is one of those exceptional, must-watch movies that casts a spell over viewers.

    And the hero of Zakhm is not Ajay Devgan – though ostensibly he is listed as the main actor – but the solid story and screenplay, and intense performances by Kunal Khemu and Pooja Bhatt.

    2. You write above: you proved that you need to attend classes for basics of writing a movie review!

    Should that unfortunate day arrive when we have to pay heed to the tormented shrieks of rabid baboons, we’d rather hang up our saddle.

  9. IAmAnIdiot   April 3, 2009 at 12:54 pm

    Should that unfortunate day arrive when we have to pay heed to the tormented shrieks of rabid baboons, we’d rather hang up our saddle.
    After reading your comment, We feel that we should fund for your treatment here: Responds:

    We didn’t ask to be invited to your home.

  10. sanewar   April 3, 2009 at 1:53 pm

    i am eagerly waiting for your views on some surrealistic movies such as mulholland dr. by the way have you ever watched any village theme movies in tamil?, well that should be really surrealistic to you. Responds:

    We’ve seen a few Tamil rural-theme movies in the spring of our lives.

    If our memory is not playing tricks, Kallukkul Eeram, Mullum Malarum, et al.

    If non sequiturs are considered an essential element of surrealistic movies, most Tamil movies are surrealistic.

    We’ll review Mulholland Dr. one of these days.

  11. mihi_rex   April 4, 2009 at 11:58 am

    Of the 100 “Movies You Should Watch Before You Die” list, how many movies have you guys seen (including 12 Angry Men)? Responds:

    27 movies.

  12. guruprasad.s   April 6, 2009 at 9:09 am

    If overwhelming bias/prejudice of the human mind was the leading theme in 12 Angry Men, then watch High Noon, for how one is bound to one’s duty, willingly or otherwise.

    High Noon is a western, yet far removed from the typical western. Just as you can feel the stuffiness of the room in 12 Angry Men, and then the relief brought about by rain, you can feel the heat, dust and the impending denouement in High Noon.

    I dont intend to reveal any more for the fear of spoiling your experience, but when you are free (which you look like most of the time 😉 ), just watch High Noon.

    Yes, Lee J. Cobb, who played the hot tempered guy in the movie (he made a ‘man’ out of his son, and the son left him, forever, perhaps), has also done fine work in On the Waterfront (I coulda been a contender …: Brando).

    In fact, Vikram Bhatt stole that and made Ghulam (1998) with Aamir Khan.

    12 Angry Men was made in Hindi, as pointed above by reader gawker, as Ek Ruka Huwa Faisla, by Basu Chatterjee.
    I remember watching Ek Ruka …, about 23 years back on DoorDarshan, without following anything except two words: Kasoorwaar (guilty) and Bekasoor (not guilty).
    Lee J Cobb’s role was essayed by Pankaj Kapoor (not very sure).

    Have you watched Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s Golmaal, starring Amol Palekar ? I am sure you should be able to get hold of Golmaal, that gold standard of sensible comedy in Hindi Cinema. After a strong dose of serious cinema (12 Angry Men, and in case you watch High Noon or any English/Tamil movie recommended by the readers above), what you need is just the kind of light-hearted fare offered by Golmaal. Beware, DO NOT pick up Ajay Devgan’s Golmaal or Golmaal Returns. Ask for Amol Palekar’s asli Golmaal. Responds:

    1. You write: but when you are free (which you look like most of the time 😉 ), just watch High Noon

    Such is Kali Yuga. When we try hard to provide pukkat entertainment, we hear a sly aside directed at us. 🙁

    High Noon looks interesting.

    2. We’ve seen bits of Golmaal, when the TV was switched on in the background and someone else was watching this movie. Just added Golmaal to our Netflix queue.

    As for Golmaal Returns, we wouldn’t see that ugly piece of shi* if you paid a gazillion $. The preview (trailer) was bad enough.

    3. Didn’t realize Lee Cobb was in On the Waterfront…must watch it again.

    The cab scene alone is paisa vasool.

  13. Sriram   August 13, 2009 at 1:36 pm

    Hi SI,

    I love this movie,i also saw some other movies of Sidney. They are ‘DOG DAY AFTERNOON’,’NETWORK’ and ‘BEFORE THE DEVIL KNOWS YOU ARE DEAD’.I think u already saw “BEFORE….”,so try to see the other two movies.Both are excellent movies.In “DOG DAY….” Al Pacino’s acting was brilliant.NETWORK was a good movie and Peter Finch’s acting was splendid.Try to see this two movies ,if u got some time. Responds:

    We’ve seen Serpico, Before the Devil Knows You Are Dead and 12 Angry Men.

    Will definitely see more Sidney Lumet’s movies including Dog Day and Network.

  14. indianmaster   December 7, 2009 at 4:07 pm

    What an amazing movie! Thanks for letting us know about this movie. Kollywood and bollywood can never make a movie like this in the next thousand years!

    Also, watched “to kill a mocking bird” “witness for the prosecution” and “anatomy of a murder” — all trial movies/courtroom dramas this weekend. Very nice movies. Responds:

    Glad you enjoyed 12 Angry Men.

    We hope to get Golmaal and A Fistful of Dollars (Clint Eastwood) on Wednesday.

    • boopalanj   January 30, 2010 at 2:47 pm

      Wiki says “Indian director Basu Chatterjee remade the film as Ek Ruka Hua Faisla in 1986.” Responds:

      SI reader Gawker also mentioned that but we haven’t seen the Hindi version. Maybe, one of these days.

  15. sganeshkumar1989   January 30, 2010 at 9:14 am

    Really great movie.Thanks to you and Guruprasad.

    Apart from being a fine courtroom drama,I guess it also works as a good guide on Group Discussion;what do you think? 😉 🙂 Responds:

    You write: I guess it also works as a good guide on Group Discussion

    More like a guide on our prejudices.

    Glad you liked it.

  16. sganeshkumar1989   January 30, 2010 at 9:17 am

    I liked Lumet’s Dog Day Afternoon too.

    Al Pacino was great in that,it just amazes me how confidently he used to perform the roles of a tough guy,despite not being a tall person,his explosive dialogue worked as a great asset for him during his earlier great days. Responds:

    Haven’t seen Dog Day Afternoon.

    Just found the Wiki profile of Dog Day Afternoon but stopped at the end of the first para. Want to keep the suspense for the movie.

    Will watch it.

  17. sganeshkumar1989   January 30, 2010 at 9:54 am

    And what about Josey Wales? Responds:

    No, haven’t seen Jose Wales either.

    The revenge tale looks interesting.

    And since it’s our Clint Eastwood we’ll definitely watch it. Soon. Ahead of the many other films in our queue.

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