Tag: 12 angry men

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A stylized, sepia-colored shot of the pocketknife from Sidney Lumet's "12 Angry Men".

12 Decisions, 1 Life: On Sidney Lumet’s “12 Angry Men” (1957)

In a New York courtroom, on what is said to be the “hottest day of the year,” 12 jurors must decide the fate of a young man who has presumably stabbed his father following a fight one night. Is he guilty or not? The punishment that awaits him is the electric chair if he is found guilty, and so we are witness to what Sidney Lumet’s 12 Angry Men must decide that afternoon within a single room. All must agree, lest the jury will be ‘hung.’ But this is one man’s life, and one can’t merely decide in five minutes.

At first, the case seems pretty clear—11 votes guilty save for juror number 8 (Henry Fonda) who votes Not Guilty. It’s not that he is convinced the man is innocent as much as he believes there might be a reasonable doubt. Might. And as anyone knows, to be found guilty means that one must be beyond a reasonable doubt. As Fonda slowly makes his case, he reevaluates the evidence and recreates scenes from the trial. As example, would it take the witness, a stroke victim who walked with a limp, 15 seconds to reach the door to see the murderer flee? Could he reach the door in time? Also, we are shown the murder weapon, which some believe is a shoo-in for a guilty verdict, only for Fonda to share that he has the same weapon in his pocket—indeed, this common switchblade that can be purchased anywhere. […]