Script of the Week: 12 Angry Men

10TH JUROR
(across the table to the 4th Juror)
It’s pretty tough to figure, isn’t it? A kid
kills his father. Bing! Just like that.

12TH JUROR
Well, if you analyze the figures…

10TH JUROR
What figures, it’s those people. I’m
tellin’ you they let the kids run
wild up there. Well, maybe it serves
’em right. Know what I mean?

12 Angry Men (1957) was written by Reginal Rose and directed by Sidney Lumet. Reginald Rose (1920-2002) was born in New York, worked for CBS and is considered to be one of the greatest television writers in America. He also wrote a number of films and stage plays. Rose was a contemporary of Paddy Chayefsky and Rod Serling, and although other writers were equally concerned with social and political issues, what distinguished Rose from others was his directness in tackling the problems in the society. Twelve Angry Men was inspired by Rose’s own experience of serving on a jury. It was first written for TV (1954), then rewritten for the stage (1955) and then for the big screen.
During his career, Rose was nominated for six Emmy awards and won three. The film 12 Angry Men earned him an Oscar nomination and a WGA Award for Best Written American Drama.

The writing in 12 Angry Men stands out for its fierce portrayal of prejudice and a fight for justice. The main character faces ignorance and carelessness from those who have been appointed to carry out justice. The main character wants people to take more time to think things through, to think in depth, because only with a clear and thorough understanding of the events, without hasty decisions and prejudice, can judgement be fair.

Conflict develops in an interesting way in this story. At the start of the story there is one juror against eleven. One by one that one juror tries to win others over, to make them see his point and be fair. So the closer we get to the climax the less opposition he has as the plot develops. It’s paradoxical because as a rule things usually get more complicated in the climax. At the end of act II there’s six agains six, so in theory there’s less opposition, but the situation is not in any way easier for the main character compared to the beginning where he was opposed by eleven. Here the writer uses theme to bring the story into culmination and resolution: it’s not only about what the accused did or did not do, it’s now about the jurors – the way they make decisions – with haste and lack of logic (one changes his vote because he wants to go see a baseball game) and their prejudice. It’s a battle of morality and justice that’s not about numbers but the quality of thinking.

Read the screenplay here.

Related:

Five Plot Point Breakdown of 12 Angry Men from ScriptLab

Writer Reginald Rose.

 

 

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