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Don't be put off by one movie critic's assessment (morally dishonest, no
stars) of this film - he just didn't "get it." This character driven
mystery is one of the decade's best! Definitely four stars!
The layered conflicts drive the story forward like a Mack truck careening down the side of a mountain, making the movie seem much shorter than its 130 minutes. Kevin Spacey's compelling portrayal of David Gale, a brilliant, principled man with more than his share of human flaws and bad luck, is excellent and is surely Oscar material.
The story begins four days before Gale's execution in a Texas prison. Gale is finally breaking his years of silence by agreeing to tell his side of the story to news-magazine reporter, Bitsey Bloom. Skeptical that this Death Row inmate is out to convince her, and the world, of his innocence, Bitsey takes the assignment expecting it to be a typical, no-brainer.
Gale's story is told in a series of tightly choreographed flashback sequences, each building in character, motive and momentum toward an exciting and most unexpected conclusion.
The story also puts a very fine point on the debate over the death penalty and gives its audience something to talk & think about on the way home.
Not since "Presumed Innocent" have I been so deliciously unable to predict an ending! It is a pleasure to leave the theater feeling completely happy about having invested the price of my ticket in this movie! It is two hours very well spent.
Ive been reading some of the user comments here on IMDB, and am a little
stunned that most of them didnt really get the plot, and therefore shouldnt
really comment on how "bad" it is. Like Winslet not having any chance in
understanding the plot, thats the entire point of the movie, and if you
didnt get that, you should not comment on how "bad" it
This movie is by far Spacey's strongest performance since the magical Se7en. Actually, all leading actors gives amazing performances in this movie that has a plot taken out from heaven. It will leave you moping, gasping for air. Giving Hollywood stick for a "too complicated script" is silly, since its far too seldom Hollywood actually offers a script like this. I would rather welcome that fact, than be mad about it.
If you feel you have what it takes to crack this puzzle before it unveals, go see this movie instantly, and be prepared to be taken on a journey.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
`No one who looks through that glass sees a person, they see a crime. I'm
not David Gale, I'm a murderer and a rapist, four days shy of his
execution,' exclaims Gale (Kevin Spacey) to reporter Bitsey Bloom (Kate
Winslet) on one of his last few days of life. While Gale might be right,
one who looks at The Life of David Gale on the silver screen sees a movie,
they see a work of art. This isn't The Life of David Gale, this is one of
the most meaningful and insightful films created in years. Its gripping
screenplay, brilliant acting and creative cinematography explores one of
America's most pressing issues in a captivating manner.
David Gale, top of his Harvard class, was Texas' leading death penalty abolitionist and professor at the University of Austin. Now on death row for the rape and murder of his best friend, Constance Hallaway (Laura Linney), reporter Bitsey Bloom interviews Gale on his last three days of life. The film is produced as a series of flashbacks exploring Gale's intriguing life and the crime he allegedly committed.
Gale was written by former Vienna philosophy professor and first-time screenwriter, Charles Randolph. The story is full of remarkable twists and turns constantly forcing the viewers to change their thoughts on who committed the murder. The film is packed with memorable lines, both serious and humorous. When city-savvy Bloom and her intern, Zack, first arrive in small-town Huntsville, Bloom remarks, `You know you're in the Bible belt when there are more churches than Starbucks.' Zack adds, `More prisons than Starbucks.' When Bloom first meets Gale, the prison guards seem unnecessarily rude toward Gale. He remarks `they are practicing being cruel and unusual.' In a flashback, Gale describes the pro-death penalty Texas Governor as being `in touch with his inner frat boy.'
The strongest part of the script occurs toward the end of the film when Bloom begins a race against time to discover what really happened at the crime scene. The last ten seconds expand the film's meaning into a questioning of the purpose of life. This theme is brilliantly touched upon in earlier segments of the movie. During a flashback of Gale teaching his U of A class, he lectures `The only way we can judge the value of our own lives is by valuing the lives of others.' In our hollow world of How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, Bringing Down the House and Old School comes this film that is truly meaningful.
While the overall script was extremely powerful, it did have one significant weak moment. On the night before Gale's execution, Bloom discovers some odd occurrences at the crime scene. Instead of spending the night investigating, she goes to sleep. The following morning is a battle against the clock to determine if Gale is guilty; she finally realizes the truth just a few minutes before the execution. The plot would have been notably more gripping if Bloom had spent the night working on the case instead of snoring. Mr. Randolph: Certainly not bad for your first screenplay; it is worthy of keeping you off this reviewer's death row.
Each actor was ideally selected for their respective roles (George Clooney was originally solicited for Spacey's role; thank God he turned it down). Spacey's role as Gale was one of the best in his career. Much of his offbeat, sarcastic and monotonous American Beauty voice seems to emerge when Gale first meets Bloom and explains why he called for her. One of Spacey's best lines ever uttered occurs later in the film when he tries to convince Bloom that he is innocent. He shouts, `I used to be the state's leading death penalty abolitionist and now I'm on death row. Doesn't that strike you as a little odd?' Another memorable Spacey scene occurs in a flashback at the U of A when a seductive female student, Berlin, pleads for a higher grade. Gale approaches Berlin and whispers in her ear, `Okay Berlin, I will give you a good grade, a very good grade, if you would just. study.'
British actress Kate Winslet flawlessly pulls off an American accent throughout the entire film. Winslet's tones of voice and minute expressions reveal a dynamic change in her personality from when she first arrives in Texas to when she leaves. She enters Huntsville conscious of her status and hardened from city life. `I'm a reporter, you're an intern,' she explains to Zack when they first arrive at the scene. Later, she becomes so immersed in Gale's story that she nearly suffocates herself when trying to reenact the murder sequence. This occurs when Bloom infiltrates the crime scene and secures a plastic bag over her head with duct tape to determine how long a person can survive without air.
Director Allan Parker took this powerful screenplay and perfect cast and created Gale in a strikingly different fashion. Parker worked with both Director of Photography Michael Seresin and Editor Gerry Hambling in 1999 to create the depressing, slow tale of old Ireland in Angela's Ashes. Considering Gale was done with the same key crew members, you would think that there would be strong correlations between the two productions, but this was not the case. Gale explores present-day issues in a fast paced, suspenseful thriller. Parker uses a fresh and different film technique when going between present-day and flashbacks. The camera seems to be spinning 360 degrees as the film cuts between present-day, the flashback and graphics of a variety of buzz words (like `death,' `truth,' `power,' `love,' etc.) until the flashback phases out the other footage.
Parker masters the technique of intercutting to convey meaning. On the day of Gale's execution, Parker rapidly cuts between the jail cook preparing his last meal, reporters discussing the execution, Bloom trying to tell the world of her findings and finally, Gale walking down the hall toward the death room. These visuals, along with the frantic track, `Media Frenzy,' portray the extreme sense of tension. Similarly, in a flashback, shots of Gale having sex with a student at a party are rapidly intercut with the fast-paced dancing of the other partygoers. Parker smartly conveys emphasis through juxtaposing striking images following a scene. After Gale utters to Bloom, `I'm running out of time,' the film cuts to a steak sizzling at a nearby barbecue. Parker is comparing Gale's hopeless and desperate situation to frying dead meat.
The Life of David Gale is a truly remarkable film, one that will force tears out of your eyes and cause your knees to shake throughout the entire 130 minutes. This absolutely riveting film will leave you thinking, for a long time, about the purpose of the death penalty and about the meaning of human life. Beware: The film is so thought-provoking that it just may change your stance on the death penalty issue.
Kevin Spacey stars as David Gale, a life long campaigner against the
death penalty finds himself on death row after being found guilty of
the rape and murder of a fellow anti-execution campaigner. Kate Winslet
is the reporter who interviews Gale during his last three days and she
is convinced of his guilt and need to be executed, but as she
interviews Gale she begins to question his guilt.
This was a great story very well told without deteriorating into a 'execution is wrong' lecture. And as usual, Kevin Spacey's performance is fantastic. Because of the twists and the amount of after-thought it provoked, I give 'The Life of David Gale' 8/10.
Directed by the legendary Sir Alan Parker, this is the story of David
Gale, a University of Texas professor of philosophy against capital
punishment who is accused of murdering a fellow activist and is sent to
Kevin Spacey and Laura Linney deliver great performances in the flashbacks. This movie is by far one of Spacey's strongest performances, he is always very subtle and insightful portraying David Gale. Laura Linney really makes a name for herself in this motion picture, she's as consistently complex and likable here as she is in "Primal Fear" and "You Can Count on Me". Kate Winslet, however, has problems in carefully crafting her character. She's called upon to cry about four or five times in this film and each time she does so, the action unfortunately rings more and more false. Other than that, she is average. Meanwhile, Gabriel Mann, Leon Rippy and Matt Craven also provide colorful backdrops to the story at hand with their credible supporting characters.
"The Life of David Gale" is a film that had a great opportunity to create controversy about the death penalty. Unfortunately, it is excessively underrated by critics, despite being nominated for the Human Rights Award from the Political Film Society and being present at the prestigious Berlin International Film Festival.
Sad and stunning. 8/10
"The Life of David Gale" is a terrific thriller and is one of the best
of 2003. Despite going to this movie through the worst date of my
life... shudder, I still have nightmares, this movie was the silver
lining. I was very excited to see this movie because it has such an
awesome actor, obviously Kevin Spacey and then a great actress Kate
This political thriller keeps you on the edge of your seat and keeps you guessing what's going to happen next. Wither you're for or against or undecided about the death penalty, this movie gets to you and keeps you thinking after wards about our justice system in the United States. David Gale is an accused murderer on death row, his last few days he requests to be interviewed by Bitsey Bloom, a journalist who likes to keep her mouth shut even when she shouldn't. He tells her his incredible story about from being one of the most respected men in Texas to one of the most hated for being accused of rape.
"No one sees a person when they look through that glass, they see a murderer and a rapist three days shy of his execution". Is he guilty or not? Trying to figure this out in the story you jump to your own conclusion, this man has been accused of rape, murder, he's lost his family and friends. Take away everything and find out if people just overlook cases or if we should judge the first minute we hear one side of the story. The Life of David Gale is an amazing story that will keep you interested. Just trust me, it's a great movie. I can even watch it without having nightmares about my horrific date. :) OK, just watch it.
Kevin Spacey deserves another one OSCAR nomination for this movie while
supporting cast is not such creative except maybe Laura Linney.
Alan Parker is back with stunning material - provoking and sophisticated. This movie makes me think about world we live and life in general. I'm not an expert in capital punishment issue, but acting of Spacey is superb and deeply touching. This is not usual stupid Hollywood popcorn movie and thank You for that. My personal rating is 10 out of 10.
If you're a fan of Kevin Spacey's, you will not be let down by "The Life of David Gale." Do not read reviews. Do not watch stuff about it on television. Just go see it and experience it for yourself. It's not a perfect film by any stretch (as many, MANY critics have been pointing out), but it does grab you and it does deliver.
The Life of David Gale (2003)
Whether you are pro or anti death penalty, there's not getting past the sensational, brave, and maybe insane elements of this story. Based on fact about a death row inmate who had been famous as a death row protester, the core of the movie is how a young reporter (a convincing Kate Winslet) interviews the inmate (an equally convincing Kevin Spacey) in the days before his scheduled execution. We are gradually shown the backstory through their interviews, and another story builds as the reporter chases down new leads, including missing video evidence. Laura Linney plays an important third lead that starts to throw doubts into everyone's mind, including the audience's.
All of this sounds like a great movie should have come out of it: superb casting and acting, a great story with believable but astounding twists, and a nice tight framework, day by day, with methodical flashbacks. Instead the movie both tries too hard and fumbles some of the key moments. What is clearly dramatic is sometimes made over-dramatic (Winslet running and running and running, or words like "innocent" spinning across the screen between scenes). Other sensationalist add-ons make the movie cheap (seeing a chaingang neatly working along the road just as they drive by). And simple reactions aren't believable (they way characters respond to someone following them, or to other threats). This is important stuff for a movie trying to recreate the truth.
By my guess, the director is the key suspect, though he has a raft of successful films behind him, including the closest echo, Midnight Express (1978), which is about injustice and a prisoner who is extraordinary. But in all his films (that I've seen, which is quite a few, it turns out), there is a feeling of powerful story line carrying the day (Mississippi Burning, Birdy). Parker has also made a series of films tied to contemporary music, from Evita which is fair to The Commitments which is terrific fun, as well as The Wall, which might be his best film in all, though a difficult one. All of these films have a great setting, either musically or geographically.
Here we have only the dull backdrop of conservative Texas (if that's not redundant). And a blazing, heartwrenching story. Which is fair enough as a start. The Life of David Gale is a powerful morality tale, most of all, with some great acting, and many or most people watching will be glad they saw it. All those little flaws fade further and further as you get toward the end.
And then the end, the famous big final twist. That's memorable stuff. Wow.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
*** SPOILERS WITHIN ***
*** SPOILERS WITHIN ***
*** SPOILERS WITHIN ***
I just returned from this movie, and I can say without a doubt this is one of the most thought-provoking films I have seen, not just about the death penalty, but about other things: the strength of people's beliefs, how far they're willing to go to achieve them, how they want to be remembered, what qualifies as a "good" life, and most importantly the choices we make in life.
People who come out of this movie seeing this as merely a piece against the death penalty are missing out on the deeper issues within this film. The issue of the death penalty, while certainly an important one, is not what this movie is about. This movie is about the things previously mentioned.
In the film, David Gale is a philosophy professor and in a flashback we see him before he is on death row, giving a lecture to his class. He says that one's life is not about his or her dreams, but about the choices made, moments which show true character. And later on, we see how one choice, a moment of weakness, can ruin all those that came before and set in motion everything else that follows.
The thing which most impressed me was the strength of Mr. Gale's beliefs. To sit on death row for six years, knowing what he knows, and to remain silent all that time, knowing the consequences if he speaks. That more than anything is a testament to the conviction of his beliefs, a conviction that I know I don't have.
I just saw this film, and I was so impressed and moved that I'm considering seeing it again. This is a movie that will stick with me a long time.
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