On a hot, rainy night, twelve nameless men, selected for a jury from various walks of life, wearily trudge into a room to begin their mandated deliberations, having just been presented with the sad facts of the case of a young boy accused of having stabbed his father to death. All of them seem to be in perfect accord, and some of them are very eager to leave the proceedings behind and return to their lives outside the court.
Then the jury foreman, perfunctorily, asks for votes for "guilty".
And then he ask for votes for "not guilty".
And from seemingly out of nowhere, one single, solitary hand is raised…
Over the next ninety minutes, the jurors revisit and question their seemingly foregone conclusions about the trial and about the boy's guilt, introducing into the proceedings outside research conducted by a juror, and broad assumptions which, it could be argued, go beyond the legal definition of reasonable doubt and would never be allowed, were the situation a real jury one. Technical and legal criticisms aside, however, the many different arguments by which each juror is swayed make for fascinating following and viewing.
As the film begins, above-eye-level cameras fitted with wide-angle lenses photographically represent and convey enormous distance between the jurors, in both the idealogical and spatial senses. But by the end of the film, telephoto lenses placed below eye level show each juror in closeup, which, along with the ever-increasing lateness of the hour and the steaming humidity and rain, create an almost tangible tension and sense of claustrophobia.
In the end, the film is a grippingly paced drama of one man's struggle to find truth against overwhelming opposition, and an overt glorification of the American jury system, not to mention twelve very different actors at the height of their craft.