A young man is accused of murder, and as the jury deliberates on a verdict, only one juror (Fonda) holds out for acquittal, causing frustration among the majority. The advocate for reasonable doubt gets under the skin of one particular juror (Cobb), whose belief in the man’s guilt is tinged with an underlying anger. As deliberations continue, the pendulum gradually begins to move in the other direction. Still, reaching a unanimous verdict will pose an enormous challenge.
Sidney Lumet’s first feature film is a spare, powerful human drama of the first order. Fonda underplays expertly as the voice of reason, and his fellow jurors are played by some of the best character actors of the day, including Jack Warden, E.G. Marshall, Martin Balsam, and Jack Klugman. Finally, as Fonda’s nemesis, Cobb projects the savage fury of a man too often wronged, a victim of his own blinding ignorance. This was a big triumph made on a small budget. Watch it — your own verdict is bound to be favorable.