By Chuck Stephens
The title of Sidney Lumet’s 12 Angry Men (1957) demands to be taken literally. Here sit (or, for emphasis, stand) a dozen sober citizens—all of them male, some cowed, some in command, but all angry. A man’s fate rests in their hands. Across their faces run the rage and defeat, the smug self-satisfaction, and the capacity for reflection and retraction that blind and finally bind the nation. And beneath all that are a dozen actors, fretting and fulminating and enjoying the ride: feeding off each other—off all the late-golden-age-of-Hollywood acting charisma boxed up in that magic little room. For audiences everywhere, the decision has long been a unanimous one: on the sole count of providing old-school Hollywood pleasures to the nth degree, we find these twelve men guilty as charged.