I defy anyone to watch this movie and not be completely absorbed in the group dynamics on display. I could take points off for the overly tidy and convenient script with its TV-movie ending or some of the less subtle methods through which director Sidney Lumet drives home his points. But with a cast as uniformly excellent as this, why quibble? Henry Fonda is just the person to play the liberal everyman, an extension of his Tom Joad character from "The Grapes of Wrath." E.G. Marshall is excellent as Fonda's most formidable opponent; cool-headed and logical, he's the only holdout who bases his verdict on facts instead of emotions. Lee J. Cobb's performance wears thin, and his character is the most poorly written. Ed Begley is almost too good in his role, so revolting is his character. Jack Klugman and Jack Warden register in smaller roles as well.
This movie conveys the sweaty, tension-filled atmosphere of a stifling jury room but never feels oppressive, thanks to Lumet's fluid direction. My favorite moment comes when Fonda begins counting off paces around the jury table (a key piece of evidence hinges on this), and the camera drops to floor level and follows his feet as he does so. Choices like this prevent Lumet's film from ever being static or stagy.
An important film and a great one. If you haven't already seen it, put it at the top of your list.
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