Movie Review by Neil Ryan
Starring: Kevin Spacey, Kate Winslet, Laura Linney, Gabriel Mann, Matt Craven, Rhona Mitra
Director: Alan Parker
With THE LIFE OF DAVID GALE Alan Parker adds further diversity to a CV that boasts an enviable breadth of styles and subject matter. Few of his contemporaries can match him for the scope of his various projects and although THE LIFE OF DAVID GALE tackles issues that have been apparent in some of his earlier films (the jolting of America’s social conscience in MISSISSIPPI BURNING; unjust incarceration in MIDNIGHT EXPRESS), the primary theme is the use of the death penalty: a contemporary political hot potato that is guaranteed to excite debate.
Kevin Spacey stars as David Gale, a fervent campaigner against the death penalty who is on death row himself (see, Americans do understand irony) for the murder of fellow activist Constance Harraway (Laura Linney). Facing imminent execution he requests a meeting with investigative journalist Bitsey Bloom (Kate Winslet) so that he can tell his side of the story. Initially sceptical Bloom gradually revises her position until she comes to believe that Gale may be innocent, and thus she embarks on a race against time to uncover the truth. However, this proves to be a frustrating pursuit as Bitsey is both helped and hampered by the actions of Gale, his too-smooth attorney, and a mystery man who seems to be following her.
Parker is extremely adept at pacing his films and the two hour-plus running time of THE LIFE OF DAVID GALE is always involving with the suspense maintained throughout. He manages to balance the elements of a thriller and an ‘issue’ movie to produce an entertaining and thoughtful piece of work. All three leads have ample opportunity to stretch themselves and Spacey, in particular, gets to indulge in some emotive showboating. There are sufficient twists to keep the audience guessing as to the outcome and although some plot holes are evident, these are easily absorbed into the flow of events. Despite this, some viewers may find the neat resolutions of the various loose ends are a little too perfunctory; but this should not detract from what is a tense and exciting film which, boosted by its star power, should ensure that its articulate take on an emotive issue is seen by a wide audience.