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Analysis of Film "twelve Angry Men"

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Essay title: Analysis of Film "twelve Angry Men"

Critical Analysis of the Film: “Twelve Angry Men”

Twelve Angry Men (1957) is a classic film where twelve strangers are brought together into a hot and humid New York jury room, to negotiate and decide on the fate of a poor, young Latino boy who is accused of killing his father (Lumet). These twelve jurors come from diverse backgrounds, and throughout the film exhibit behaviors that demonstrate their cultural, economic and social differences. In the beginning of the film, these dissimilar viewpoints, prejudices and biases become a barrier in their decision-making but as the film continues their conflicting personalities help to enrich the actions and decisions in the jury room, resulting in a unanimous not guilty verdict.

The film looks at conflict in two interdependent ways. The first form of conflict portrayed in the film is through the plot. The jury must decide whether to convict the young boy of killing his father and sentence him to death, or conclude that he is innocent of the crime and set him free (Lumet, 1957). This first form of conflict frames the entire film, yet there is a second dimension of conflict that presents itself when the twelve jurors are sent to deliberate. As the men gather into the jury room it is apparent through their body language and brief conversations that many of the men are hot, exhausted, and ready to convict the boy without giving it another thought. Even before the formal discussion begins it is obvious various opinions and views are likely to affect the jury deliberation, and conflict may be unavoidable. When these men are confronted by juror #8 (Davis), who stands alone with his not guilty verdict, the conversation within the jury room becomes very heated. The jury room soon becomes a battlefield; the pressure to derive an honest verdict is no longer the primary conflict, instead the group is challenged by various opinions, intense frustrations, lack of participation and indifferent attitudes which exposes a greater conflict (Lumet, 1957).

As the men settled into the jury room the foreman (juror #1) was eager to get started and appeared quite organized, yet seemed to lack the confidence necessary to lead the group effectively. He hastily gathered the men around the table and had them sit in order, juror number one through twelve. After discussing it with the entire jury and accommodating the needs of the group, he elected that the deliberation begin with a “raise of hands” vote. After the eleven to one vote was reached, isolating Davis

(juror #8) as the only juryman to vote “not guilty”, the brash garage owner (juror #10) than attempted to intimidate Davis by saying “there is always one” and then insensitively revealed that he “doesn’t owe the boy a thing”, especially his time (Lumet, 1957). After several other jurors raised their arguments, Davis then explained to the jury the reason he voted in favor of the defendant was because he couldn’t find it plausible to send a young boy to the electric chair without re-examining the facts of the case (1957). Although the majority of the jurors remained silent, their body language revealed that Davis had them thinking about reviewing the facts one more time. The foreman then acted as a facilitator by requesting that each juror provide rationale for their “guilty” conviction. This series of events set the tone for the remainder of the film, and exposed many of the character’s personal biases, weaknesses, cultural differences and lack of knowledge.

Davis, whom I concluded to be a level-headed, intelligent and active listener, seemed to understand from the beginning of the deliberation that “collaborative negotiation” would be the most effective way to derive a verdict (Albright & Masters, 2002). However, many of the other jurors had only their personal interests in mind when they initially voted, and approached the discussion using “positional bargaining” which is an ineffective method of negotiation (2002). Strategies such as compromise and collaboration seemed foreign to many of the jurors which made the conflict in the room very difficult to manage. Yet, Davis did a suburb job of managing the conflict by using rational persuasion and effective negotiating skills. This positive approach to resolution paved the way for the remaining jurors.

The elderly man named McCardle (juror #9) was the first to support Davis and change his vote to not guilty (Lumet, 1957). It appeared that this change initially was motivated by his desire to support Davis, therefore acting as an accommodator. He wasn’t convinced either way in the beginning but as additional facts were revealed McCardle joined Davis as a collaborator. The fifth character to change his vote to not guilty was the bank clerk (juror

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