Sunday, March 21, 2010

12 Angry Men (1957)

I love this movie! I love the play. I love the type of story - put a bunch of strangers in a space together and something is bound to happen. The specifics of why they are there always differ, but I have hardly ever been disappointed by this type of story.
This movie is a gem. I don't know what exactly it is; I don't think it is one element, but all of them. The acting is wonderful - All of the amazing character actors and Henry Fonda at his best. It is incredibly important that all of these personalities be as varied as they are. And because that have to be that different, each actor has to make them as real as they can be - especially in a movie where belief and indecision are so vital.
I have a cinematic weakness for this story.
The stage version vs filmed versions is a bit of a topic. On one hand, the stage version is better because of the live intensity. You can't match that in film. Also, if staged right, the enclosure of the space and the intimacy can give a real sense of the atmosphere. On the other hand, staging can also be very awkward in the wrong space. Presenting this in proscenium in a big problem. in film, you have the elegance of camera angles and film edits. This is part of the reason why I love this film. In a movie where space is everything, the use of close-ups, medium and long shots become art. Being able to zoom in on a person's eyes while realization creeps over them. That is gold to a movie like this.
So yeah, I kinda like the movie. And a lot of people agree with me. It is honored by inclusion in the National Film Registry. It also has a place on 5 AFI lists, as well as Fonda being on one of their 100 Stars list. It was nominated for three Oscars, but lost to 'Bridge on the River Kwai' (see review) for all three, which also is a classic, so it was in very good company.
5 out of 5 stars

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