Characterisation, plays a major part in most movies, this is what gives the audience insights into a characters personality. The film 12 Angry Men relies more heavily on the use of characterisation than any other movie I can think of. Due to the lack of special effects and because the film takes place almost entirely in a small jury room the development of characters was key. This star studded cast of actors included such names as: Henry Fonda, Lee J. Cobb, and Ed Begley, even the guy from The Odd Couple was in the movie.
An important part of characterisation deals with how characters are revealed. There are four major methods of revealing characterisation: actions, appearance, dialogue, and thoughts. The film 12 Angry Men makes strong use of all of these methods, but the use of appearance seems to be the primary method used in revealing characterisation. As we are introduced to the characters we can make fairly accurate assumptions of their personality based on the court room scene at the beginning of the film. For instance, juror number two looks like the prototypical nerd; wearing glasses, looking very awkward and small in stature.
Also, juror number six looks very rough and presumably unintelligent; very large in stature with a strong jaw line and wearing his shirt unbuttoned at the top without a tie. We can also make assumptions about Henry Fonda s character (juror #8) based on his appearance. He looks very intelligent and almost angelic in his all white suit and with his tall and slender build. Later in the movie these ideas are reinforced by the other three methods of characterization. However, there is one character whose appearance is misleading. Juror number five appears to be the average middle class citizen, but in fact he hails from the slums.
Once again, since the film takes place in the small, suffocating jury room we get to know quite a lot about characters. For example, we learn that juror number ten is a racist, that juror number four resents young people due to his own sour relationship with his son, and that juror number three is a cool and calm stockbroker who never sweats. With as much as we learn about the twelve jurors we never find out if they take anything home with them after the trial. For instance, does juror number ten s opinion of minorities change, or does juror number four resolve the conflict with his son. As in society the jury s members were made up of those with very strong personalities and not so strong personalities, or leaders and followers. Which is fitting because a jury is supposed to be a sample of society.
However, there really isn t a sample of society in the film as half of our society is missing from the movie, women. Also, there are no minorities in this jury. I find this a little hard to believe because I would think that a defence attorney would try to select a jury made up of mostly women because the crime in question had to do with a son killing his father, which is something that might persuade some men to vote guilty. Also, I would think the defense attorney would also try to get as many minorities on the jury as possible since the defendant is supposed to be representing all minorities. Another extremely important aspect of film is conflict, without an interesting conflict a film becomes uninteresting. Of course there is the classic good versus evil conflict, but in 12 Angry Men the conflict seems to be more along the lines of just versus unjust.
There is no real good versus evil scenario because all of the conflict in the movie revolves around discussion of a court case, and no character can be classified as evil (not even jurors number ten or four). Never the less, this movie definitely had its share of conflict. In the beginning of the movie the conflict is between Henry Fonda s character and the other eleven jurors as to whether there is enough evidence to convict, and ultimately put to death, a young man. As the movie continues we begin to see other more subtle conflicts arise. One of these subtle or inner conflicts is shown in the scene where juror number four talks about kids these days and tells the others of the scuffle between he and his son. You can see the anger, fear, and sorrow on his face and hear it in his voice as he tells the story while staring at a picture of his son.
Although with this conflict we see no actual resolution it is assumed that by voting not guilty he is in fact letting go of this hatred towards young people and forgiving his son. The same assumption can be made for juror number ten who gives a speech about them, referring to minorities, revealing his racist beliefs. By voting not guilty it can be assumed that he is dismissing his racist beliefs. In the end of the movie the major conflict is resolved, the boy is found not guilty. To conclude, 12 Angry Men uses strong characterisation due to its lack of special effects and because the virtually the entire film is shot in the same small room. Also the film makes good use of conflict, although it doesn t use the prototypical good versus evil conflict.
This film makes statements about how our judicial system is supposed to operate, and gives society a model for the ideal citizen in Henry Fonda.