It may be due to the fact that I often have a hard time accepting time lapses in film. The power of film to create the illusion of being in real time and space--in a way that literature does not--can make it hard for me to really register a given time lapse. And so, it felt to me like the judgment and consciences of these eleven individuals were being steamrolled.
That's an interesting objection. I tend to love films that adhere to the three classical unities
. But surely your criticism would have more force were the contrivances in Reginald Rose's screenplay any less inspired. From the outset, we can predict that
but we are never sure exactly how
it will play out, and that unsureness provides a great deal of pleasurable suspense. (How's he gonna pull this off?
) If Fonda's victory (an example of the American judicial system so triumphant it's no wonder schools like to show it) seems too cut-and-dried, too easily won, it's more a testament to Rose's focus and efficiency as a screenwriter (not an ounce of fat anywhere), Lumet's ruthlessly paced direction, and the brilliant ensemble cast, who make it all seem so effortless.
To put it more bluntly, who cares if it's steamrolled? The film is a Swiss watch, a metronome—it simply works
The only nit I could possibly pick has more to do with your other objection. Fonda's character is perhaps too sanctimonious to pass certain smell tests. (He may in fact be, as Lee J. Cobb's character puts it, "a lousy bleeding heart.") But this knight-in-a-white-suit, this architect, is intriguing to me, and wonderfully humanized by Fonda.
At this point I think it's right to admit that I simply have a great deal of respect for this kind of hard-sell, '50s-liberal-conscience drama. Seeing my favorite film remade earlier this year (in Russian, no less!) was a thrill.
Edited by Nathaniel, 19 December 2009 - 02:25 AM.