Wednesday, February 1, 2012
100 Movies - No. 1: 12 Angry Men
Drama, 96 minutes
Directed by Sidney Lumet
Starring Henry Fonda, Lee J. Cobb and Martin Balsam
Sidney Lumet passed away in 2011, but he left us with 72 films, shorts or TV series. This was his first feature for the big screen and it's definitely among his best work.
For me, one of the signs of a good film is to take a subject in which I have no interest and hold my attention for the duration. The story takes place in one room, apart from a couple of minutes at the beginning and end of the film. It succeeds because of the strength of the dialogue and the acting ability of all involved.
After a very compact 96 minutes in which no scene is wasted, the credits roll. I'm left with the feeling that I have just seen something important. The film deals with racism and highlights the good and bad points of the American justice system. Henry Fonda leads a strong cast and every member has a significant role to play.
Lumet used a variety of camera angles to make the viewer feel like a member of the jury and it's easy to be drawn in. This is one of those rare stories where dialogue is actually exciting. It's really something that has the potential to be enjoyed by any audience.
Criterion's recent Blu-ray release offers a wonderful presentation and includes a good supplemental package.
If you like 12 Angry Men:
Consider Dog Day Afternoon for another great Lumet film. Al Pacino stars in the tale of how a bank robbery captured the attention of the media.
If you enjoyed the dialogue in 12 Angry Men, take a look at Glengarry Glen Ross, which is another film that succeeds on the strength of its script. Al Pacino, Jack Lemmon and Ed Harris speak David Mamet's words with utter conviction in a tale involving a group of salesmen.
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