One of the best debut films in the history of cinema, Sidney Lumet’s 1957 12 Angry Men, a hymn to the voice of reason amidst a cacophony of furious prejudice, questions the very nature of the American judicial system in its pursuit of justice and its relation to the truth.
On a sweltering, Summer day, the twelve members of a jury retire to deliberate on a murder case. What at first seems irrefutable to nearly all of them, i.e. the defendant’s guilt, soon dissipates into thin air. Rain starts to fall, cooling the day, as juror # 8, slowly convinces the others of the possible reasonable doubt in the case. As ambiguous as it can be, we never find out the truth of the matter. We are left with the not guilty verdict and we’re not sure it is the best one. Continue reading
A western with no action or a play with cowboys, William A. Wellman’s 1943 The Ox-Bow Incident tells the sad tale of three men facing the possibility of execution by the mob, where reason and compassion are overlooked in the name of impulsive, angry and swift ‘justice’.
It is not a coincidence that Henry Fonda’s character Gil Carter in The Ox-Bow Incident represents the audience’s alter ego and challenges the mob rule mentality, as he would do the same fourteen years later in Sidney Lumet’s classic 12 Angry Men. Fonda as an actor is perfect as the cool and rational human being who is capable of seeing things as they should be seen. Note here, not necessarily seeing thing as they really are, for that would imply that society, and especially American society, is just, and yet human beings are sometimes misguided. Continue reading