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“Twelve Angry Men” by Sidney Lumet

12 Angry Men is an American film directed by Sidney Lumet, based on a screenplay from the TV show by Reginald Rose. The film was produced by Westinghouse Studio One and was first released in 1957. The film’s genre is a courtroom drama, and its plot takes place mainly in the same set – jury room 208A. At the beginning of the film, the viewer sees a jury, whom the judge asks to convict or acquit an 18-year-old accused who allegedly killed his father. The judge asks the jury to make the decision based on reasonable doubt or lack of doubt. Over the next hour, the jury debates the verdict, trying to determine if there is sufficient evidence that the defendant committed the murder. This paper aims to discuss the movie in the context of group behavior forms, namely group decision making, communication, leadership, and conflict and negotiation.

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Conventionally, the film can be divided into several acts, symbolizing the turning points when the jury changes their minds. Within an hour, 12 jurors change their opinion from 11 to 1 in favor of “guilty” to unanimous “not guilty” (12 angry men, 2020). In the first act, the jury, tired of lengthy court hearings, enters the decision-making room, stretches their legs, and gets to know each other. However, under the influence of juror number 7, who wants to quickly “end it all,” the jury, without discussion, passes a nearly unanimous verdict of “guilty.” Juror number 8, the architect, votes “not guilty,” explaining that he believes that they should try to discuss the sentence before sentencing a person to death. The group initially shows disagreement but then agrees to “talk a little.” Juror 4 begins to list some of the charges brought before the court, which almost immediately outrages jurors 3 and 10, who are firmly convinced of the defendant’s guilt.

Therefore, the discussion initiated by juror 8, who took on the role of leader, reveals another juror with leadership qualities – juror 4. Communication also helps to identify the main antagonists – juror 7. who is in a rush to a football match; juror 3, who confessed that his son once hit him; and juror 10, who is aggressive and fanatical and later turns out to have racial prejudice against the accused. The group is not ready for teamwork but understands the need to make a joint decision. Many are not ready to easily convict an innocent, so they accept the invitation of juror 8 to communicate. However, in the first act, the conflict has not yet matured, so negotiations have no basis.

To whet the other jurors’ interest, and in the hopes of garnering support, juror 8 proposes to vote again and promises to refrain from objection if the jury is again unanimous. Most of the jurors consider the young man guilty, except for juror 9, the older man, who takes the side of juror 8 (12 angry men, 2020). Juror 4, a leader with good communication skills, continues to debate the verdict despite juror 7’s overt displeasure. He argues that the boy’s father was killed with the same knife that the boy had. The boy said he lost his knife, and fingerprints were erased from the knife found at the scene of the murder. Therefore, juror 8 asked to bring the knife, and when juror 4 again tried to convince the jury that this knife belonged to the accused, juror 8 pulled out the same knife from his pocket. This act caused excitement among the jury and the antagonists’ aggression, who began to appeal that there were two witnesses to the murder.

Noteworthy, juror 8 is a ‘locomotive’ of discussion. No one has ideas regarding the guilt of the young man, which plunges neutral and sympathetic juries into a kind of lethargy. Simultaneously, the antagonists are very active; they play on the weaknesses, resort to aggression and intimidation, and do not give strong arguments. Juror 4 expresses the group’s common sense since the evidence from the prosecution convinces him. Juror 8 takes on an attorney’s role, seeking to rebut allegations if they are not well-founded, and enlisting sympathetic jurors’ support (12 angry men, 2020). Overall, the behavior of jurors 4 and 8 as informal group leaders is respectable. Juror 9 also has the makings of a leader but lacks the inner strength or oratorical talent to convince others of his opinion.

Further, during the discussion, juror 8 proposes to conduct an investigative experiment. He asks to bring a plan of the first witness’ apartment, who managed to get out of bed and reach the door in 15 seconds to see how the accused ran down the stairs after he threatened to kill his father. The experiment confirmed that the first witness, an older man with sore legs, would not cover the distance from the bed to the door in 15 seconds, which indicated that he could only hear someone running down the stairs. Discouraged by the new turn, juror 3 threatens to kill juror 8 if he does not stop, to which juror 8 replies that juror 3 probably does not mean it.

Juror 8, as the already recognized leader, continues to push the group to participate in the discussion and says that the first witness could not hear the sound of the fallen body. According to the second witness, a locomotive was passing along the street at that moment, which would have drowned out any sounds. Juror 8 also says that the victim was 16 inches taller than the accused but was stabbed from top to bottom. The antagonist juror 3 demonstrates that this is possible. But then juror 5, who grew up in the slums, explains that if the accused knew how to use a knife, he would strike from the bottom up. Therefore, juror 8 sows doubt on the jury board, and juror 1 proposes to vote again.

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The votes are evenly divided this time, but juror 8 ran out of arguments, as juror 4 says that the second witness saw the boy kill his father from a nearby house across the street. However, juror 9 suddenly recalls that the second witness was wearing glasses when she testified in the courtroom. Juror 8 states that since people do not wear glasses when they go to bed, the second witness most likely saw only the killer’s silhouette (12 angry men, 2020). It convinces juror 4 and other jurors, and juror 3 remains the only antagonist who gives up soon. Therefore, the movie demonstrates that one person can change the result of a group decision if he treats the group carefully and with respect and if there are potential supporters in the group.

Thus, the movie was discussed in terms of group behavior forms, namely, group decision-making, communication, leadership, conflict, and negotiation. Juror’s 8 confidence, and correct attitude towards the group, and the predominantly respectful group relationships, helped the jury to make the right decision. None of the leaders had prejudices; on the contrary, the leaders tried to convey arguments to the group members honestly and resisted the antagonists. Therefore, when arguments began to testify in favor of the young man’s innocence, the group could pacify the antagonists, who surrendered.

References

Twelve angry men, 1954 (2020). [Video file]. Web.

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StudyCorgi. (2022, April 18). “Twelve Angry Men” by Sidney Lumet. Retrieved from https://studycorgi.com/twelve-angry-men-by-sidney-lumet/

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