47 Great Movie Moments #1 – 12 Angry Men

I was looking for another 47-themed series to write, and this came to mind.  47 moments in film that I love, that I felt are worth having a look at.  (Why 47?) I don’t know if I’ll get these up every day, but we’ll do our best.  So, without further ado, here is moment #1.

Twelve Angry Men (1957)

Directed by:  Sidney Lumet

12 jurors debate and deliberate over the fate of an unnamed man, accused of murder.  At first, everyone is convinced of his guilt, until one juror (Henry Fonda) begins to poke holes in the evidence, casting reasonable doubt upon the case against him.

The Set-up

Many of the jurors have different reasons for thinking the young man guilty, but as Henry Fonda’s character brings up different questions, one after another realize that their assumptions are built on shaky foundations. One of the last holdouts is Juror #10, played by Ed Begley. Hours into this arduous process, the vote shifts to 9-3 in favor of acquittal.  When that happens, with tensions high, Juror #10 finally blows his stack.

The Moment

Juror #10  lets loose on his colleagues in a racist screed that is still relevant today.  He rants on about how, sure, they’re not all bad, they’re not all criminals, there are some good ones, but mostly they drink, mostly they get in trouble, and really, it doesn’t take too much to push them over into killing somebody, and so the idea of letting this one go when he looks so guilty just doesn’t make any sense.  The diatribe is all the more effective for the fact that the accused’s ethnicity is never actually specified.  It could be almost anyone, almost anyone that we’ve entertained such thoughts about.

The speech is shot brilliantly, a single take in which the camera pulls away slowly, and we see how with increasing conviction, the rest of the room start to turn their backs on #10.  In the end, most of the jury has moved away from the table, or if they are still sitting there, they have turned their bodies away from him.  When he lets out his final, almost whimpering, “Listen to me…”, there is nobody left facing him, with the exception of the stoic Juror #4 (played by E.G. Marshall), who as far as the case has been concerned had been an ally of his up to that moment.  He responds coldy, “I have.  Now sit down and don’t open your mouth again.”

The Payoff

At it happens, aside from a few sputters, Juror #10 never does say anything again.  He sits to the side, morose, and the camera moves back in while the rest of the jury resumes their work.  Even when a final vote is taken, #10 doesn’t answer out loud, but rather just shakes his head when Henry Fonda asks him if he thinks the defendant is guilty,

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