Characterization plays a major part in most movies, this is what gives
the audience insights into a characters personality. The film 12 Angry Men Essay
relies more heavily on the use of characterization 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 characterization deals with how characters are
revealed. There are four major methods of revealing characterization:
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 characterization. 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
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
defense 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
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 .