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12 Angry Men, Movie Review Example

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Movie Review

The movie “12 Angry Men” was originally made in 1957 with Henry Fonda as the main character that opposed the prejudice of the rest of the jurors.  In 1997, a television remake starring Jack Lemmon was made with slightly different characteristics.  The criminal that is on trial for murder is a Latino teenager.  Furthermore, the diversity of the jurors in the 1997 remake is much more obvious than in the original.  There are both African American and Caucasian jurors as well as individuals that are of a highly religious background.  It is safe to argue that almost every single one of the jurors has some form of social or cultural bias that has led them to believe that the young man is guilty in the beginning of the story.  To showcase the importance of the group dynamics, it is crucial to evaluate and explain the different sources of conflict and the types of conflict between the jurors, as well as deliberate on whether the conflict was constructive or properly managed within the group.

First of all, each of the characters maintained a different motivation for their actions throughout the story.  These motivations each caused some form of conflict throughout the jury’s deliberation over the events within the trial.  While Juror #8, played by world-renowned actor Jack Lemmon, sought to use logic and reason to think through the young man’s guilt or innocence, many of the jurors were solely interested in utilizing their own sources of motivation to vote the final verdict.  For instance, one of the jurors played by actor Tony Danza is the quintessential stereotype of the Italian New Yorker that had baseball tickets to a game in town and was worried that he was going to be late for the big game.  Motivation for the lack of deliberation is an initial source of conflict within the jurors.  While some wanted to have the long, hot day be over with and send the young man to prison, and likely to his death, others wanted to do so because they had racial prejudice against the young man for being of Hispanic decent.  Therefore, it becomes clear that racial bias and sources of prejudice also existed within the film as a source of conflict between the twelve jurors.

Although many people would like to believe that racial prejudice and ethnic biases are no longer problems in our “modern” society, they are clearly shown as obviously sources of conflict within “12 Angry Men.”  Many of the characters utilize attribution theory as a method for attributing a logical and often incorrect explanation for the conflict that emerges within the beginning of the story.  Jack Lemmon’s character is berated and verbally abused multiple times throughout the film because of his inability to give in to the prejudices of others.  Some of the jurors, as previously explained, had inherent biases and prejudice against the young man for his Hispanic background.  An example of this comes from the climactic scene towards the end in which Juror #3 engages in a long speech about the problems of the boy and his race.  “I don’t understand you people.  I mean all these little points you keep bringing up.  You saw this kid, just like I did.  You know how these people lie.  It’s born in them!  I mean they don’t know what the truth is.”  After engaging the room for several minutes, it becomes clear that they are unwilling to listen to his arguments any more, yet he continues with his argument.  “And bang somebody’s lying in the gutter.  Nobody’s blaming them for it, that’s the way they are – by nature.  You know what I mean?  Violent!”  Other jurors showed signs of conflict amongst each other because of their different ethnic, racial and social backgrounds.  For instance, Juror #10 played by Mykelti Williamson, plays a devout Muslim that is determined to fight against the hypocrisy and discrimination of the white man.  He engages in multiple conflicts with other jurors simply because of their color and what he perceives as their own stereotypes.  Through his own actions, the audience quickly sees his own prejudice towards others even when he or other characters are not being racially discriminated for their actions of beliefs.

At first it can be argued that the source of conflicts and the overall problem of deliberating amongst the jurors was a very destructive situation.  All of the jurors appeared to be completely united in their decision that the young man was guilty of killing his own father, for one reason or another.  The conflict was initiated by Jack Lemmon’s character and the initial conflict became very destructive within the group.  The group slowly destroyed their unity through their disagreement, and often their hatred, of Lemmon’s character.  His views and arguments caused much dissention among the group until rationality eventually forced the characters to slowly, one by one, begin to vote in favor of Juror #8’s opinion that the young man was not guilty.  Eventually, the room became separated by competition.  There existed a competition between Juror #3 and Juror #8 in trying to sway the vote towards their respective viewpoint.  This became another major source of conflict and it stemmed from the beginning conflict of opinions within the group.  Juror #3 even asked at one point to another juror, “Are you with me, or with … him?”  Ultimately, the conflict truly destroyed the unity of the group, and through its destruction the group began to reunite under the belief that there was a reasonable doubt for the young man being guilty of his crime; therefore, he should be found not guilty.  In this case, the overall conflict within the film can also be argued to be constructive.  While it destroyed the group’s unity, it also acted as a force of group cohesiveness in building a more solid argument for the young man’s innocence than was previously argued for his guilt.  The jurors found the young man innocent by argument of reasonable doubt, which is the most constructive act throughout the film.

One important instrument that discusses the many causes and problems associated with conflict is called the Thomas-Kilmann Instrument (TKI).  This instrument states that “conflict situations are those in which the concerns of two people appear to be incompatible” and that in such situations, an individual’s behaviors was be classified as being assertive or cooperative (Kilmann.com).  Under this definition, it is clear that the two main opponents, Juror #3 and Juror #8 are highly assertive and seek to conflict with one another for their own motivations and reasoning.  Each juror actively works to sway the opinion of the dissenting jurors.  On the other hand, in the conflict there were side characters that behaved on the opposite end of the TKI, which claims that individuals must work to be cooperative.  First, Juror #2, an older African American gentleman becomes the first to serve in a cooperative manner during the conflict.  He is the first juror of the other eleven to be swayed by Jack Lemmon’s character.  Also, the foreman in charge of the deliberation also acts in a cooperative manner seldom showing any major opinion except to maintain order within the room and follow the rules as described by the judge.

Without a doubt, the characters engaged in many different sources of conflict to help push the plot of the film into the climax.  Forsyth describes this scenario as a conflict spiral in which each new dispute leads to more conflict, which also in turn leads to even more conflict and spirals out of control (1990, p. 364).  To avoid the conflict spiral, the jurors must have left their prejudice and racial discrimination outside of the courtroom and the deliberation.  Such inherent conflicts of diverse individuals automatically cause problems and serious conflict in highly stressful situations.  The jurors should have decided to manage all conflict in a reasonable manner without raising voices or becoming overly frustrated.  With the inclusion of an almost personal vendetta, Juror #3 uses his competition with Juror #8 and his racial bias to inflict much of the conflict spiral on the group.  As the group began to diverge into different coalitions, the group dynamics continued to change throughout the film.  Ultimately, justice was served and the young man was finally released from a crime in which there was reasonable doubt he did not commit.

References

Forsyth, D.R. (1990). Group dynamics, second edition. Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks/Cole Publishing Company.

Kilmann.com (n.d.). Ralph Kilmann – conflict mode instrument. Retrieved from http://www.kilmann.com/conflict.html

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