Thursday 22 March 2012

12 ANGRY MEN (1957 Vs 1997)

'12 Angry Men' is a classic film from 1957, directed by the legendary Sidney Lumet. The whole film takes place in one room. But this isn't 'Saw', it doesn't resort to shock and awe, and it isn't 'Reservoir Dogs': no ears get chopped off.

It's 12 people in a room, talking. That's ALL it is. Yet it's riveting! A perfect film. 

For those of you who haven't seen it: the film is about a jury who has to reach a unanimous verdict on a murder case. 11 of them are certain he's guilty, yet one of them is not sure. Juror no #8 is played by Henry Fonda. You can't take your eyes off him in this film, you sit there spellbound for 90 minutes.

They remade it in 1997, and Fonda's role was played by Jack Lemmon. I understand the casting. Juror No #8 was an everyman. He's who we like to think we are. And if that isn't an exact description of Jack Lemmon then I don't know what is.

But guess what? It doesn't work with Jack Lemmon! In fact, the remake hardly works at all. 

It looks simple, right? 12 men in a room talking, easy! Just follow the script, get the shots, and be done with it.

But the original was directed by Sidney Lumet, one of the all time great directors. When someone nails subtlety and simplicity, they make it seem like anyone can do it, but it's not true, it takes skill, talent and awareness. Lumet made a masterpiece in 1957. The remake in 1997 is flat, you don't believe the characters. It crosses your mind that you're just watching 12 people sitting in a room talking.

We tell stories to each other verbally, or we read them in print. It's enough, when the story is great and handled well. That's why the original movie is so good. Henry Fonda grabs your attention and you're in awe of him standing up to 11 men who disagree with him.

With the Jack Lemmon version, he's not brave, he's just disagreeing with people, he's just unsure. It's just as valid,  but it's not as compelling. But Fonda is magnetic, he pulls you in and holds onto you for the entire film.

The first film does an incredible job of putting you in the room. You feel like you're in the jury. Each member of the group is distinct and different. Some are reasonable, some are apathetic, some are angry and hostile. Thing is, you relate to all of them! That's why Fonda's character is so powerful, because you know how hard it is for people's minds to get changed. You feel it yourself when you're certain about something.

The craziest thing about '12 Angry Men' is that we don't know the full case, only what we hear in the jurors room afterwards.  Our interest in the story isn't even based on the merits of the case, we don't even know them!

The 1957 version is genius, a masterclass in simplicity, story, and character. The 1997 version has everything in place, but it doesn't feel as natural. It's worth a watch, but the original is the masterpiece.

Care to share?

1 comment:

  1. i thought that 12 men were presenting 12 human emotions or characters like anger, hate, curiosity and observant etc, so u they can relate to us imo