12 Angry Men


“It’s always difficult to keep personal prejudice out of a thing like this. And wherever you run into it, prejudice always obscures the truth. I don’t really know what the truth is. I don’t suppose anybody will ever really know. Nine of us now seem to feel that the defendant is innocent, but we’re just gambling on probabilities – we may be wrong. We may be trying to let a guilty man go free, I don’t know. Nobody really can. But we have a reasonable doubt, and that’s something that’s very valuable in our system. No jury can declare a man guilty unless it’s sure.”

– Juror #8

Sidney Lumet’s “12 Angry Men” was part of the watch list, under American Cinema. I don’t know what to expect, unfamiliar with black-and-white flicks. I viewed it, not thinking that I have to write a paper about it, afterwards. I was pleased, not because it was a great picture.

The first thirty minutes would reveal twelve jurors, from twelve different backgrounds. They must decide if the young lad was guilty of stabbing his father. It should be a unanimous decision, but one juror was perceptive. He thought otherwise. What happened next was a case of character study, of how an individual’s upbringing and beliefs would influence his opinion on the young fellow. I was referring to a person’s prejudice(s), which one member would show. The other members’ reaction was priceless, probably the defining moment in the movie.

The moral lesson of the flick was to give the individual, charged, some reasonable doubt – and proved innocent (or guilty). Easier said than done, but I believed that this wasn’t the movie’s appeal. It was about one perceptive fellow, who kind of played the game of divide and conquer. After all, he was the only one who believed in the lad’s innocence. One hour and a half later, he convinced most of them. One was forced to, sort of, but for personal reasons. For one hour and a half, I got to know the jurors, personally. A few weren’t likable, but I wasn’t watching the film to judge them. After all, I could see myself as flawed as any member of the jury, not sure if the lad was guilty. But a decision had to be made, and reasonable doubt must be established.

I don’t know how my course-mates found it, if they fancied talkies. But I would recommend it.


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