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Verdict Served

Shane Meagher examines why ‘Twelve Angry Men’ is so popular 55 years after its release

Twelve Angry Men is one of the most compelling films you’ll ever see. This is not because of any mind-blowing special effects or fast-paced scenes of action – in fact, the majority of the film takes place in one room. Yet, this masterpiece still enthralls viewers today as much as it did when it premiered in 1957. What is the secret behind its enduring appeal?

The film deals with a jury of twelve men, who have been given the unenviable task of determining the guilt or innocence of an eighteen-year old boy who has been accused of stabbing his father to death. In spite of the fact that a guilty verdict would ultimately lead to a death sentence, eleven of the jurors are convinced of the boy’s guilt before any discussion has taken place. However, one man remains doubtful, and refuses to agree to a guilty verdict until the matter has been thoroughly examined and debated by the jury.

And so, this juror (played by Henry Fonda) sets out to convince his peers that there is a reasonable doubt as to the guilt of the boy. While this may not sound like a particularly engaging storyline for a movie that lasts an hour and a half, it is so well executed that the audience is entertained and compelled throughout.

Twelve Angry Men is flawlessly written. The characters are well developed, so much so that one can fully believe them to be real people. This is helped by the impeccable acting of all involved. Henry Fonda in particular delivers an outstanding performance as the hero of the story, while the other eleven key actors each play their part excellently. Sidney Lumet’s directing skills are also a major asset to this film. The fact that it was filmed in black and white only adds to its charm.

Twelve Angry Men is one of those films that you’ll never forget. It has suspense, drama, tension and, like so many great movies, it reveals a great deal about the human condition. Truly, this is a movie that has truly earned its reputation as a must-see film. Highly recommended. 

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