The Life Of David Gale

The Life Of David Gale


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Is this a thriller, a mystery, a mess or a good cause? The answer is, all of these things.

Alan Parker is a filmmaker who respects the visual image and believes in clarity of purpose. Something has gone wrong here. Except for the stunning opening shot, The Life Of David Gale is not a movie that retains memories of heartstopping camerawork. It is slow, overlong, convoluted and incredible.

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A cast, headed by Kevin Spacey and Kate Winslet, cannot be all bad and that's true. Spacey, as Gale, sits behind bullet-proof glass in the visitor's area of a Texas penitentiary, like Hannibal Lecter having chats with Clarice Starling. Opposite him is Winslet, as Bitsey, a news magazine reporter, enjoying the privilege of an exclusive interview with a convicted murderer. As he tells his story, the movie flashes back through the highlights, such as when a sexy student traps him in a bathroom and his great friend Constance (Laura Linney) suffocates, handcuffed and naked, on a kitchen floor.

Gale is a popular, intellectually respected university lecturer who is charged with Constance's murder. Both had been active in a pressure group, fighting to repeal the death penalty. Since his arrest, he has remained silent, until now, four days before his execution.

Day One, Day Two, Day Three are flashed up on screen to keep the tension taut as Bitsey and her lanky, cigarette smoking intern associate (excellent performance from Gabriel Mann) rush off and play detectives, attempting to uncover fresh evidence that will save the condemned man in the nick of time.

Although tried-and-tested as a movie formula, this race for life never fails to stimulate excitement, but Parker takes it easy, too easy. The plot twists strangle rationality, as Bitsey runs like hell to stand still. The denouement, for all its intended irony, is too silly for words.

Spacey would make Alzheimer's interesting and Gale is not an unattractive man, which means that watching him lose control of his life becomes a guilty pleasure. Bitsey could have been played by any number of flavoursome American actresses. Winslet brings nothing new to the role, which is hardly her fault, since there is nothing new in it.

Parker made Angel Heart, Mississippi Burning and Midnight Express. He knows how to manipulate emotion with designer violence. Now, he's lost it and the sparks don't fly any more.

Reviewed on: 12 Mar 2003
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The Life Of David Gale packshot
Kevin Spacey tells his story to Kate Winslet four days before being executed for murder.
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Director: Alan Parker

Writer: Charles Randolph

Starring: Kevin Spacey, Kate Winslet, Laura Linney, Gabriel Mann, Matt Craven, Leon Rippy, Rhona Mitra

Year: 2003

Runtime: 130 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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