The Life of David Gale
2 out of 5 stars
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
the crime is clear, the path is not There's an extremely intriguing premise behind this film that makes it fascinating to watch, but only because of the thoughts it provokes. Alas, the film itself never rises above a mediocre and rather predictable drama. Top news-magazine journalist Bitsey (Winslet) is given the chance of a lifetime: To interview a man on death row over the last three days of his life. So off she goes to Texas, accompanied by a keen intern (Mann), to meet philosophy professor David Gale (Spacey), due to be executed for the brutal rape and murder of his colleague Constance (Linney). The irony is that David and Constance were once leading protestors against the death penalty. As David unfurls his story to Bitsey, new truths come to light. Bitsey thinks she might be able to save him.

The first half of the story is gripping in a whodunit sort of way, as we travel through David's story collecting hints and clues as to what happened and why. There are all sorts of red herrings along the way, some of them hint at a huge conspiracy, others at petty jealousies. And the adept cast make it compelling and very watchable (Linney is the standout, while Mann gives the film's most disarmingly authentic performance). Then it all starts to come together ... and if you've been paying attention, the full truth becomes quite obvious a full 45 minutes before the chilling final shot. Well, it would be chilling if we hadn't figured it all out 45 minutes earlier! The last act of the story is just so overwrought and self-important that it undermines both the strong narrative and any statement the film might have made about capital punishment. Throughout the film it feels like Parker has no faith in the audience, filling gaps with trite montages of meaningful words, dropping tantalizing hints everywhere and merely using life-and-death issues for cinematic purposes instead of engaging in any meaningful examination of the themes.

cert 15 themes, language, sex, nudity 10.Jan.03

dir Alan Parker
scr Charles Randolph
with Kevin Spacey, Kate Winslet, Laura Linney, Gabriel Mann, Matt Craven, Leon Rippy, Rhona Mitra, Melissa McCarthy, Jim Beaver, Michael Crabtree, Elizabeth Gast, Marco Perella
release US 21.Feb.03; UK 14.Mar.03
Universal
03/US 2h10

Coffee break. David and Constance (Spacey and Linney) plan their next protest...

spacey winslet linney
R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... the crime is clear, the path is not "I thought the movie - though I agree witty hints were everywhere - was truly something that left you in awe! I did not know much about the movie before I saw it; to me it was a poor man on death row who appeared to be framed. With every minute that passed I realized the movie was so much more than that. I didn't look at all the clues as a director being clumsy with trying to hide clues. I looked at it as a director who wanted the truth to be shouted out in neon lights so badly, to the point where he took what may under the microscope be obvious hints and briliantly disguised them just enough to keep one's brain sharp. Enough to keep you from scratching your head as you left the movie theater, but not so much where you didn't find yourself driving home saying to yourself, "Oh wow, this must be what this part meant," and so on. I was skeptical to see the movie when I saw that many popular critics were just bashing the movie, particularly the acting of Kate Winslet. Now I can say out of the two most electrifying movies I have seen in my life, Kate Winslet now stars in both of them (this and of course Titanic). Needless to say, she has been in some popular movies for a woman who critics claim is a lousy actress." --Shayne Bouchard, Massachusetts 13.Mar.03
2003 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall

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