MOVIES: Jury duty & ‘12 Angry Men’
    April 28 2017 by Phil Boatwright

    I was summoned for jury duty back in January. Now, I have yet to meet anyone who was excited over the prospect of serving on a jury. I wasn’t. It was winter in Kansas and I live 40 miles from the courthouse! That would not deter most of my fellow Kansans, but I’m a city boy originally from snowless Southern California. I could only picture snow and ice on the roads and being arrested for not showing up on time.

    Phil Boatwright


    A few days before I was to appear, I drove the 40 miles to the courthouse just to make sure I knew where I was going. Sure enough, I couldn’t find it. When I finally did arrive, I went inside and spoke with the security guards. Both gave me sound counsel for my appearance date and instructed me to call the night before to see if the trial had been cancelled.
     
    So, 5 o’clock the evening before, I made the call. Whew, the trial I had been selected for had been called off.
     
    I’m probably not the only Christian who has sought to escape jury duty, but my attitude changed after a recent DVD viewing of the original 12 Angry Men, the greatest jury drama of all time. Suddenly, I became aware of the obligation Americans, especially we as Christians, have concerning service to our nation’s court system.
     
    Directed by Sidney Lumet, who would later helm Network, The Verdict and Murder on the Orient Express, just to name a few from his long list of Oscar contenders, this brilliantly conceived, intense 1957 production (it has been remade a couple of times) concerns a lone juror not convinced of the guilt of a young man accused of murder.
     
    During the closing arguments of a murder case, this one man is nagged by a reasonable doubt. At first he stands alone but, one by one, others come to grips with their assessments, all while the filmmakers adroitly pronounce the merits of our judicial system.
     
    In 2007, 12 Angry Men was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress due to its cultural, historical and aesthetic significance. This classic remains as relevant today as when it first hit movie screens.
     
    For younger generations who may not be familiar with the work of the film’s star, Henry Fonda, much less his costars Lee J. Cobb, Jack Klugman, Martin Balsam and the rest, these were all seasoned pros, both on stage and in film. Most of Fonda’s costars were best known as character actors or supporting players. However, once given the proper role, they shone as brightly as any star.
     
    Filmed much like a play, almost the entire production is set in one confining jury room during a hot, muggy New York summer. Don’t let that fool you. It never bores, mainly due to the fact that the deliberations in 12 Angry Men contain the truest special effects: story, performance and dialogue. To be sure, a defining moment in a screen character always outweighs computer-generated imagery wizardry.
     
    The film sparked in me an appreciation for our trial-by-jury system. I was humbled by the realization that there have been men and women throughout our nation’s history who did their best to see that justice was sought and attained through our courts.
     
    Though 12 Angry Men was made with no particular spiritual impact in mind, I think the Lord used this film to convince me that even though serving on a jury can be an inconvenience, it’s also a privilege. It got me to thinking: While this world is not our home, we Christians are to love our fellow man. And we’re not being scripturally obedient when we avoid looking out for one another.
     
    If and when I’m again summoned, I know I will seek the Holy Spirit’s wisdom and then serve as best I can. Not many films from Tinseltown impact our spiritual obligations that way. 12 Angry Men does.
     
    (EDITOR’S NOTE – Phil Boatwright, in addition to writing for Baptist Press, reviews films at moviereporter.com and is a regular contributor to The World and Everything in It, a weekly radio program from WORLD News Group. He is the author of MOVIES: The Good, the Bad, and the Really, Really Bad, available on Amazon.com.)
     

    4/28/2017 3:27:45 PM by Phil Boatwright | with 0 comments




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