Martin Balsam as Juror #1
John Fiedler as Juror #2
Lee J. Cobb as Juror #3
E.G. Marshall as Juror #4
Jack Klugman as Juror #5
Edward Binns as Juror #6
Jack Warden as Juror #7
Henry Fonda as Juror #8
Joseph Sweeney as Juror #9
Ed Begley as Juror #10
George Voskovec as Juror #11
Robert Webber as Juror #12
In this oscar-nominated classic, a murderer has been put on trial and all clues point to his guilt. Sure, enough, all but one juror is for conviction. But as they discuss the case, they realize that all is not as it seems. Before long, the jury is fifty-fifty, leaving one to wonder how this deadlock can be resolved.
This is a nice murder mystery. We see how easy it can be for the layman to misinterpret facts, especially when only one side of the story is argued very well.
The vast majority of the movie takes place inside a room where the jurors deliberate. They’re stuck there until they reach a verdict. There’s a significant amount of depth in the personalities of the characters. These are not your standard TV or movie jurors that aren’t much more than messengers. You might find it strange that the jurors are all white men, but that’s the way it was back then.
We also see jurist prejudice. A few jurors justify their initial guilty votes because poor kids from the slums supposedly always do things like this. One particularly dickish one absolutely hates those people and is outraged that there are any dissidents. It’s worth noting that the infamous cases in which members of the KKK got away with lynchings were happening (I think) around this time. Whether this movie is referencing those cases or not, the timing is ironic.
One or two jurors don’t have a personal stake, though. In fact they don’t seem to care at first, merely wanting to get the trial over with and watch a Baseball game on TV.
Most importantly, we see that not all cases are ever fully clear. Sometimes, we don’t have all the facts available. Here there are many conflicting facts that leave us wondering. The best a jury can do is decide if the prosecution has met its burden of proof.
My final praise is that like the Perry Mason TV series, there’s a sense of mystery that’s rarely in legal shows and movies. In most of today’s courtroom dramas, we know who did the deed. While it can be fun wondering if a jury will see the obvious, I feel that something is lost without uncertainty.
If there is any major flaw with this movie, it’s that it is perhaps too extreme. It’s actually not as rare as you might think for the minority of a jury to sway the majority. But one turning around eleven?
If you don’t mind old stuff, this is a really good movie. Not only is the drama first-rate, we see important things about the flawed criminal justice system.
Overall: 8 out of 10