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The Life of David Gale

Kate Winslet plays a reporter who interviews a death row prisoner, David Gale (Kevin Spacey), four days before his execution for the rape and murder of the director of an anti death penalty organisation, to which Gale also belonged.

The Life of David Gale contains elements of drama, murder mystery and thriller. As a mystery it doesn't quite work because there's a shortage of suspects, leaving little room for misdirection. As a thriller the tension isn't ratcheted high enough. But as a drama, both political and personal, the film is quite effective.

Some of the steps in Gale's downfall from university philosophy professor to destitute alcoholic and death row inmate are a touch heavy handed, but overall it's a nice showcase for Kevin Spacey. He has the chance to show his vulnerable side which he doesn't get very often. Laura Linney as the abolitionist is even better - hers is the standout performance, at least on par with her turn in You Can Count On Me. Kate Winslet essentially acts as the eyes of the audience and while she's good her emotion is a bit overplayed near the end. But that's probably because I wasn't as caught up in Gale's fate as I was meant to be, so her tears broke against the wall of my detachment.

That insouciance might be partly due to Alan Parker's overuse of flashy camera moves, jump cuts and Se7en-inspired inserts between and within sequences. I'm not sure what he was trying to achieve there but it distracted from the flow of the drama, reminded me that I was watching a movie.

There's a major reveal late in the story and then a final twist. Both are telegraphed pretty early and neither came as a huge surprise to me. (Maybe I've been watching too many episodes of The Practice.) I wish that writer Charles Randolph had dispensed with the final twist actually. The clues were there to be found and the movie would have ended on a disquieting note of ambiguity rather than the "Guess what!" cliche.

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on April 18, 2005 12:23 AM.

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