Which version of Twelve Angry Men--the film made in 1957 or in 1997--truly captures the prejudice and unfairness of the jury though its portrayal of attitude, action, and appearance?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The 1957 movie Twelve Angry Men is the more powerful performance and better depicts the natures of the individual jurors and their biases.

In a review for this movie, the critics' consensus is recorded in this statement:

Sidney Lumet's feature debut is a superbly written, dramatically effective courtroom thriller that rightfully stands as a modern classic. 

The main points that Reginald Rose focuses on are the bigotry of Juror No. 3 and the unconcern about the fate of a Hispanic boy, especially by Juror No. 7. From the beginning, it is only Juror No. 8 (played by Henry Fonda) who is truly concerned about taking his role as a juror seriously and giving a just verdict. There is verisimilitude in this situation because of the prevailing attitudes of many whites in 1957 who, while not necessarily bigoted, simply were not concerned much about minorities who were a small percentage of the population at that time. Also, the jurors would truly be surprised at Fonda's character not going along with them.

But, in the 1997 version, the credibility of eleven jurors voting guilty so swiftly is very questionable because the jury is composed of, not all white men as it would truly be given the setting, but African-Americans and at least one Hispanic. It seems to cast a shadow on the verisimilitude of this film that the minority jurors would not have some doubts about voting guilty on the first vote or pay closer attention to the details of the case. Besides this, the movie is not realistic since in 1954 when Rose wrote his play, a play about contemporary times, only white men could serve on juries. 

Not only does the presence of multicultural jurors bring into question an aspect of verisimilitude of the 1997 film, but it weakens the strength of the drama's characterization, as well as its overall impact. Because the jury is composed of all white men before political correctness, the dialogue is much more powerful and realistic and, therefore, more believable in the 1957 version. 

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Twelve Angry Men

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