The Life of David Gale (2003) Poster

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The Life of David Gale: Possibly the film of a lifetime.
bbodow28 March 2003
Warning: 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, no 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.
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8/10
Kevin Spacey takes it trough the roof
DJelusive9 June 2003
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 is.

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.
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10/10
I found this to be an excellently executed film in all respects with tight, compelling writing, superb acting, and an ending for which they should employ the old technique of not letting anyone in during the
the7bamboo22 February 2003
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 murder 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.
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7/10
Very Underrated
joaocruzferreira26 September 2007
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 death row.

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
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10/10
Wow
Kristine23 February 2003
"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 Winslet.

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.

10/10
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8/10
An extremely thought provoking movie
Warren Johnstone18 October 2004
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.
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7/10
It strains sometimes, but the plot and its twists will get you good. Great acting, too!
secondtake27 March 2010
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.
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10/10
Kevin Spacey at his best and utmost - another one OSCAR performance
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.
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8/10
Not perfect but emotionally riveting
Rogue-3223 February 2003
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.
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10/10
What Is the Worth of a Man's Life?
dukevega27 March 2003
Warning: 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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9/10
Machiavelli is still alive and kicking, in death row.
Dr Jacques COULARDEAU16 April 2009
Warning: Spoilers
You may think this film is a thriller about the death penalty, but it is not. It looks like it, true, but the end reveals it is something completely different. It is about the way the media can be manipulated in any direction, provided you are intelligent. Once a brilliant university professor was confronted in a TV debate to the governor of Texas about the death penalty. The governor asked him to give the name of one executed person that was innocent and could be proved so. The professor could not answer such a question for the simple reason that there is no post mortem investigation in the case of an execution, except… And the professor started, with his main assistant in his fight against the death penalty, to think of how to prove that point. In the mean time he is tricked by some dumb girl student into doing exactly what he should never have done: have sex with her. She sue him for rape, even if later she will drop the charge. The damage is done. He is kicked out of academia. His wife takes his son away and gets a divorce. She sells the house. He cannot even get a job as the manager of a technical store. He is reduced to nothing, to being a rapist forever. But he does not want to move. His main assistant in his fight is going to die of leukemia. When he learns that, the plan to trap the governor germinates in their minds and they put it through. He is going to be accused of the murder of his assistant though it is not a murder. The evidence it is not is a tape, the recording of what really happened. But it will come in three pieces. The man will be sentenced to death. Three days before his execution he asks a famous journalist from New York to come and take the first and last interview he is going to give her in six hours spread out over the three days before his execution. The first excerpt of the tape we have mentioned will turn up in the journalist's motel room on the second day, before execution, too short and a copy. Worthless. Then after some adventure the journalist manages to recuperate what she thinks is the whole tape that proves what she was thinking, after some personal experimentation, is right: the woman killed herself, but who worked the camera? A man that is seen at the end of the tape, a man the journalist has seen here and there and in whose shack she has found the tape. But that too is too short though not worthless. It creates havoc and it proves an innocent man can be sentenced to death. During that time the $500,000 for the interview travel to Mexico and the ex-wife for the son. The father had been vindicated in the mean time. But the journalist finally receives the last excerpt of the tape, the end of the suicidal demonstrative séance and there the professor is shown coming at this very moment, just after the death of the woman, just as if he had been behind the camera all the time and he turns that camera off, after checking the woman is dead. The media had been manipulated about the guilt of the man and about the fairness and justice of the death penalty, then about the man's innocence and the suicide of the woman, and yet the truth was that the death had been planned in such a way that the execution would demonstrate how an innocent person can be sentenced to death. Manipulation all along by a woman who wanted to make her natural death useful for the cause she advocated and by a man who did not have the courage to move on and start a new life after having been destroyed by an unscrupulous student and by his own dumbness: students are out of reach as long as they are within grading distance. He preferred to make his death (which becomes a very special suicide) useful for the cause he advocated and for his own son. But the film is short because two men helped the woman and staged her death and the man lied all along the way of his confession and ordeal. The media are so naïve that they believe anything provided it smells slightly sulfurous or sulfuric.

Dr Jacques COULARDEAU, University Paris 1 Pantheon Sorbonne, University Versailles Saint Quentin en Yvelines, CEGID
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4/10
Nonsensical but watchable. ***SPOILERS***
MoeSnodgrass9 February 2011
Warning: Spoilers
So many people enjoyed this film, I should not dissuade others from viewing it. But when other reviewers here heap praise on it, I feel I need to weigh in.

This story is full of holes big enough to fly a 747 through and red herrings the size of the Loch Ness monster.

The entire premise of the film, that death penalty abolition activists would commit suicide and murder solely in the name of their activist cause is very difficult to buy.

The Gale character's alcoholism serves only as a crude device to further his unbelievable actions during the "rape" scene and among so many other scenes.

The existence and resulting "search" for the rape victim is a heavy-handed red herring to the degree that is not often witnessed in "serious" writing and world cinema.

The payment of $500,000 to buy the rights to Gale's story, in cash no less, by an established media organization, is preposterous. Nobody would have cared about Gale's story. In fact, to the contrary, it was Gale alone who wanted his story told. It would have been more likely for him to attempt to pay a writer.

I don't fault the writer because, after all, the producers and director bought it, and based on the reviews here, so did the audience -- you've all been sold a bill of goods.

As in his other films, Alan Parker manages to mangle acting talent as if he had over-squeezed a piece of citrus. The resulting unwanted pulp, seed and rind make the performance unrecognizable from what was ordered and leaves it mostly unpalatable.

The ending tries in vain to explain away the story inconsistencies in ways that are implausible. It would have made more sense to invoke "Angel Heart voodoo."

In fact, this film feels so much like Parker's "Angel Heart" that it now becomes obvious: the greatest problems lay in Parker's choice of properties and in his very choices in direction. Worst of all, Parker seems consistently intent on defacing the world's premier acting talent.

All-in-all a mostly ridiculous, mundane effort in generic Hollywood filmmaking.

4/10
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1/10
The last minute was one too many ...
ElMaruecan8219 September 2012
Warning: Spoilers
I remember in 2004, at the dawn of the Presidential Campaign, there was a vast controversy surrounding Bush' military service, yet the documents used by his adversaries were proved to be false and the case was closed in favor of Bush. The irony is that the accusation was still valid, but since his opponent, a distinguished journalist if I recall, lost all his credibility and had to apologize about it, no one ever mentioned it again, and Bush won by default. And I remember very well my initial reaction, what if the documents were given by the Bush side, this would have been one hell of a strategy, you start a controversy to better discredit it, perverse but ingenuous.

To a certain extent, I had the same feeling concerning Alan Parker's film "The Life of David Gale", a film that created so many high expectations on me during the viewing that I couldn't believe how wrongly it was concluded. "The Life of David Gale" pretends to be against capital punishment the whole time, yet at the end, the activists prove to be part of such a treacherous and monstrous scheme, that if anything, we can't empathize with them, let alone their fight. The death penalty wins by default. You could even give the benefit of the doubt by thinking that the film is pro-death penalty as it doesn't even exploit the real basis of its activism, which is the sacredness of life. In the film, people are against capital punishment because it can kill innocent people, so guilty people deserve to die? The film totally belies the whole purpose of the plot and the way it builds our empathy towards Kevin Spacey, Laura Linney and Kate Winslet. Either it was dumb, either it was misleading, in both cases, it was pointless.

And what's more tragic in that failure, besides having in its cast such talented actors and a director of Alan Parker's caliber who proved to be capable to handle politically difficult subjects such as "Midnight Express" or "Mississippi Burning", the saddest thing is that one lousy shot was enough to ruin the whole film, I'm talking about the last twist with the videotape. "The Life of David Gale" seemed to go somewhere, with intelligence, until the final revelation that killed off every ounce of credibility. Kevin Spacey was part of the activist murder. They wanted to provide an example of a man wrongly accused and whose innocence would be proved AFTER his execution. Well apparently, he wasn't that innocent, and he invalidates the whole point he was trying to make, since he wasn't innocent, he deserves to be sent in the death row. Naturally, it's up to Kate Winslet to expose the truth or not, but it doesn't matter. Since the point is to convince the viewers, not the film's characters. We already know.

And we know that they are wrong. And it's a shame because this was the core of their fight: in a previous scene, Gale lost a debate because he couldn't come up with a valid example of an innocent executed. Gale had to find a way to be a martyr of his own cause. Talk about a thrilling premise. And then, the last shot on the videotape appears and reveals to us, viewers, that Gale was a morally corrupted guy who didn't hesitate to participate to a killing to make a point. This last scene was obviously aimed to provide a cheap thrill, impressing the audience before the ending credits start. Basically, the director traded the credibility of the plot just for a last 'wow' effect. Spacey and Linney played characters who were obviously more interested in having a point proved than saving people's lives.

At the end, I felt cheated because I did empathize with these characters, I felt cheated by the screenwriter who came up with the last-minute idea. Why did they do that? Is it because Kevin Spacey is associated with so many twist endings, like "Se7en" or "The Usual Suspects" (he's even involved in a middle plot twist in "L.A. Confidential") that the film was calling for one? Well, it worked in these films because the viewer was mislead only to finally realize how he got fooled, but it never implicated his deepest beliefs. In "The Life of David Gale", we don't feel fooled but cheated, characters-wise, story-wise, message-wise. Not every film is entitled to have a message, but when you deal with death penalty, you have a point to make, if not a side to take.

What was the point of "The Life of David Gale", it's not because everything seems to accuse a man that he's not guilty, well, I wish the film wasn't even made if it was to make such a ludicrous point, because if it doesn't bring much to the debate, it doesn't help those who fight death penalty. I give the film 1 star for the last minute, it's so well acted and directed that maybe I could have given more, but I can't accept the actual rating on IMDb. Ebert gave it 0 star, and I've never been so much in the same wavelength than him, I read his review, it was like reading my own mind.

To conclude, "The Life of David Gale" had the casting, the directing, the catchy title and the interesting plot line but it sinned by a cheap, misleading and fallaciously manipulative twist ending, obviously put for the sake of it. To give you an example, imagine if "12 Angry Men" ended with an additional scene where we would learn that the kid, killed his father, proving that we was guilty from the beginning, how would you have felt? Well, the same goes for "The Life of David Gale". What a waste, what a shame!
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1/10
Illogical, Nauseating and Morally Reprehensible
meta-eve27 December 2007
If this was an "anti-death penalty" film then the filmmakers failed miserably. The characters who "prove" the inherent fallacy of the death penalty are portrayed as unscrupulous liars who conspire and manipulate the legal system by means of a staged rape/murder and a snuff tape of their friend committing suicide. In addition, the negative stereotypes in the film are abundant: The "activists" come across as over-zealous fanatics (and one martyr), the supporters of the death penalty are only portrayed as Bible-quoting rednecks, the politicians, lawyers and judges are self-serving liars that could have come out of a made-for-TV movie, etc. There is also a cowboy/left-wing extremist who lives in a dilapidated shack where he listens to opera and acts out the elaborate plans of the aforementioned conspirators. And, of course, the selfless martyrs who so cleverly beat the system to prove their valiant political cause decided to swindle half a millions dollars from a news magazine. Hmmmmm...

I don't know who made this dubious piece of junk, but my overwhelming intuition is that the director must have been one nasty, mean-spirited, nihilistic individual.
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9/10
A Very Depressing Movie
Lucabrasisleeps16 December 2008
It is strange how much this movie was ignored. It doesn't rank on many critics top 10 list and it wasn't a huge box office success anyway. Weird considering it is one of Kevin spacey's best performances. I almost cried at the end so the movie achieved what it set out to achieve.

The movie is about a man named David Gale(Kevin Spacey) who is a philosophy professor and also a anti-death penalty campaigner. He was arrested some time ago and convicted on the crime of raping and murdering a fellow death penalty campaigner named Constance(the gorgeous Laura Linney). He has been given a death sentence. He asks for a reporter during his last week to tell the real story supposedly. That reporter is Bitsey Bloom(Kate winslet) who shows a genuine disinterest at first towards the case but who has a reputation of reporting on difficult and controversial stories. Bitsey bloom travels with her partner Zack to the facility where Gale is held.

The movie has many twists and turns showing the collapse of David Gale's life as he changes from respected philosophy professor to an ostracised man because of some events in his life. These scenes are quite sad and depressing and Gale doesn't have many friends who stand by him in the hour of need. The way the movie flows is actually quite excellent and the revelation in the middle is quite surprising. It doesn't seem like a gimmick and that's where the movie triumphs.

The performances are quite amazing. Kevin Spacey as David Gale has given one of the best performances in his career and Laura Linney as Constance is cute,smart and amazingly compassionate. Kate winslet as Bitsey Bloom also gives a great performance as a woman who starts off as indifferent to the case but then transforms into a woman who feels genuine sympathy for the plight of David Gale. The background music is also quite amazing and this is one of the best in movies. At the very least it should have gotten an award for this category. The music at certain points is quite emotional and towards the end it is one of the reasons for the beautiful climax.

The only problem I have might be the rewatchability factor. I think I might not watch it again. Maybe because it is too depressing. But it should be definitely watched by people who are interested in the issue of death penalty and its accompanying ethical questions. The questions raised by David Gale in the interview with the Texas governor are one of the best examples. That scene alone is enough for people to watch this movie. The movie is also an example of how one mistake changes the life of a respected person in society and how quickly things can change in life if we are not careful about everything we do. So in essence it is not just a movie for death penalty campaigners and those who are interested in the concept of death penalty. But it is also a movie for people who are interested in human nature in general.

9/10
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1/10
I would expect nothing less from Hollywood
datroy19 August 2003
Unfortunately, this was the only movie I hadn't seen playing on a flight from Heathrow to Newark. SO, I watched it. Big mistake. It's a poorly attempted damning indictment of everything even remotely right-leaning. William Bennett is bashed in what is meant to be a trendy, off-the-cuff joke made by Spacey's character but which was obviously forced into the script just to poke fun at those knuckle-dragging far-right ultra conservatives. The governor of Texas (we all know who this was supposed to be) comes off as a bumbling, bible thumping idiot with an IQ lower than Forrest Gump. Every person executed is apparently innocent and falsely convicted. We're supposed to break down crying like Laura Linney when an admitted cop killer is executed. It's a hollywood liberal's dream film: it gets to slam its own propaganda down your throat while attacking anything and everything conservative. Avoid.
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1/10
Kevin Spacey Im ashamed
glipzcom24 February 2003
(some minor details are revealed in this) I love movies. I love them so much i would make a horrible critic. There is not much I dont like, but this movie. Ouch, it was horrible. Maybe it would have been better if I had not seen so many dead man walking films. But Kevin Spacey one of my favorite actors could not save this movie. The premise was bad from the previews, but the indy style titling and cast selection made me think this had a chance. But alas Kevin Spacey seemed type casted. He played a horribly fake drunk, and Kate Winslet seemed pointless. In fact the Intern character was the most entertaining of the bunch. The unraveling of the story was slow and not very exciting. Characters are stalked by the unknow man. Who seems to be nothing but a cheap gimmic. And there was that horrible line "call the governor, the warden, call everone" that was so so generic. And the most silly transistions i have seen in a long time. When ever you go to flashback in the story its flashes of words writen and typed on paper with a spining camera. Really lame. This movie tried to have meaning and thats why it fails it did not fulfil its promise to the viewer. Just watch it on video if you need to see it its really not worth it. I wasted two really good passes on it. Which is funny because i had tried to sneak into it eariler in the eveining and ended up seeing Final Destination 2 which without a plot was still more entertaining that Mr. Gale.

Have fun at the movies.
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2/10
terrible waste of talent
bahrom121 July 2015
Warning: Spoilers
Let me start by saying that I never give movies I review one star and I don't bother reading one star reviews by others either. One star should be reserved for something with production values of porn. There are very few normal movies that fall to that level and IMO anybody who doesn't get that has no sense of proportion and isn't worth paying attention to.

All that said, I was pretty tempted to give 1 star to this. Such a sad sad waste of talent. There is suspense here and there is good acting by Kevin Spacey, Laura Linney, Kate Winslet and others. But to what end?! Instead of a provocative examination of death penalty (a topic definitely worth examining) which is promised for a large portion of the movie what we end up getting in the finale is a disgusting story with absolutely NO message. None, zilch, nada. It made me physically sick but that was all. If that was the filmmakers goal then they succeeded. But really, it would have been much easier and faster to stick two fingers down my throat.

**** SPOILERS ahead**** The twist in the end serves no purpose other than to shock. It completely cheapens the subject matter and robs the movie of any moral value. Like if Clarice had turned out to be secretly in cahoots with Dr Lecter all along and went to join him for dinner he was planning at the end of Silence of the Lambs. Certainly it doesn't contribute to the capital punishment debate. If you were for it then you'll be reinforced in your views and think that the main characters were twisted sickos who fully deserved what they got and proved nothing by their stunt. If you were against it you'll just be offended.

Two stars. You've been warned.
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4/10
The Problem Here Is The Script
Lechuguilla29 November 2009
Hollywood puts capital punishment on trial in this fictional story about a man named David Gale (Kevin Spacey) on death row in Texas. The irony is that Gale was once an erudite professor and political activist who fought against the death penalty. Billed as a thriller, the film uses a female reporter, Bitsey Bloom (Kate Winslet), to interview Gale in prison, who tells his story to her.

The number one problem here is the script. The story's underlying premise is not remotely believable. In addition, the story lacks focus, as the plot darts and flits among several people, sometimes Gale, sometimes Bitsey Bloom, or other, more peripheral characters, one of which I never did figure out their relevance.

Further, the plot structure seesaws between current events involving Winslet's character, and flashbacks to Gale's life prior to his incarceration, to create a jerky, spasmodic narrative. And the story uses every cliché in the book, the most annoying being the use of television news reports. I can't imagine how this script got approved, maybe insider connections.

Beyond that, another problem is the casting. Gale may be an interesting character on paper. But he's dull as dishwater in the film. Every time I looked at David Gale, all I saw was Kevin Spacey, the actor. A lesser-known actor could have added novelty and eccentricity.

A message film with good intentions, "The Life Of David Gale" fails to engender much interest, owing to a very poor script and some bad casting. The film does offer production design that is quite realistic. But that alone is not enough for a positive recommendation.
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9/10
A riveting and well written moralistic story with an incredible cast
Robert W.31 August 2006
Warning: Spoilers
All the right pieces fall into place that make The Life of David Gale so watchable. The cast is outstanding led by the incredible Kevin Spacey who is one of the most versatile and intriguing actors out there, the script is strong and interesting with a moral argument about the death penalty and a mystery with a twist of an ending that leaves you shocked but satisfied with the film as a whole. This a must see film that is very underrated considering it's lack of awards and critical acclaim. I admit that the ending although riveting and a twist I did see it coming and I had it pegged which for me is very unusual. I was a little disappointed that I figured it out but it didn't decrease how much I loved this film.

Kevin Spacey plays lead character David Gale. A former anti-death penalty advocate Spacey ironically finds himself sitting on death row in the murder of his co-advocate. He cries innocence and with only days left to live invites a top tabloid reporter to take his story and investigate. Spacey does his usual incredible job. The man is so deep and intelligent and just so watchable. You feel for him and feel every moment of his story. He was built for this role and should have garnered an Oscar nod. Kate Winslet plays Lois Lane type reporter Bitsey Bloom. I've never been a huge Winslet fan but her performance in this film supporting Spacey's character is quite brilliant. She intently follows the story and plays an unwilling part in a sick game. Her role is quite emotional but her role is strong and well played. Laura Linney plays victim and Spacey's friend and lover Constance Harraway. Linney's role is small but good and I found her a little bland next to Spacey and Winslet but Linney is usually a little bland, however she does decently. Character actors Leon Rippy, and Matt Craven both play small but important roles and they add something to the already terrific cast.

Equally part drama, thriller, action, and mystery The Life of David Gale is the perfect film to entertain and make you think. It's a win win film because it has everything that a person could want in a good, strong entertaining film. It's brilliantly written and has a strong director in Mr. Alan Parker who has done similar films before. It feels almost like an indie film, almost artistic in style but much more mainstream than the average artsy film. The film is gritty and sad and violent at times but has this overtone of light and knowledge. It really must be seen to be believed...the film is a must see and absolutely breathtaking!! 9/10
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4/10
Becomes predictable, manufactured
pc9526 July 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Here's a movie that starts out OK. Unfortunately as it goes on, I started to feel less and less interested in the film, which is often the case these days. Spacey is undoubtedly a better supporting actor than lead. He's a pretty good actor, but throughout the movie, he's bland, low-key - probably more a poor choice of direction. Kate Winslet is watchable, but more a Nancy Drew than reporter......implausibilities? plenty - how about the bank issuing $500k cash on the same day and then various characters parading it around everywhere even to other countries, or college professor/administrators drinking and partying publicly with their classes? Car breakdowns, Flat characters, ....

Its a movie where the FF button gets used more and more - the movie is terribly predictable and the music and acting feel manufactured especially as the movie goes on....one scene in particular with Spacey sort of tearing and sobbing stamped express for the audience. little empathy generated to the point where the ending has little effect. The supporting cast do a better job than the leads. There are worse movies out there, but this is one to check out at your local library if possible. Fails as a "thriller" and cant stand-up as a "drama". 4 out of 10.
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Folded Asphyxiation
tedg21 August 2004
Warning: Spoilers
Spoilers herein.

This is a suffocating film about suffocation, a simple story about a philosophy professor written by a philosophy perfessor (no foolin), an invented story about another invented story that proves to have been invented because of another story. It is a film about a film.

It features Spacey as the untrusted narrator who tells us a bunch o stuff that turns out to be lies. True to Spaceyitis, we are spoonfed the correct answer at the end. It also features Kate Winslet, who may be our best actor for this sort of folded project. She literally has the job of projecting the movie in flashbacks from the reactions on her face as Spacey `tells' her.

And it has Linney, whose earnest energy with the other two would have make a politician's funeral interesting if that dud Parker wouldn't keep getting in the way. He's nearly as bad as Mark Herman and if it hadn't been for `Fame,' he'd still be pasting up billboards.

Ted's Evaluation -- 2 of 3: Has some interesting elements.
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Seen as a thriller, it's very engaging, almost ruined by a gratuitously unneccessary final shot.
Li-19 April 2003
** 1/2 out of ****

The Life of David Gale was slammed by critics for being a sanctimonious preachfest. I prefer to view the movie as a mystery/thriller with the death penalty views as a background for its plot. Seen as thus, this is a mostly satisfying thriller, packed with just the right amount of twists and turns, red herrings, and intriguing characters to entertain for its two-hour running time.

Kate Winslet (look prettier than ever) star as Bitsey Bloom, a journalist who is on task to interview David Gale (Kevin Spacey) before he is to be executed in three days. He was a former professor sentenced for the rape and murder of Constance Harraway (Laura Linney), who along with Gale, were close friends and advocates against the death penalty. As Gale unfolds the tale of the last few months of his life before the murder, she slowly begins to believe he might actually be innocent and that the real killer could be very well out there, watching her every move.

As I said before, The Life of David Gale is a very entertaining thriller. Seen as just that, a thriller, it does have its flaws, some of it pertaining to Winslet. Her performance is actually quite good, it's that, as is the case with a lot of movies in this genre, the "detectives" are usually the least well-developed characters, simply because they're there to gather the facts and piece the clues together. The only things we know about her is that she's determined and very tenacious.

Both Spacey and Linney are excellent, convincing in their portrayals of normal individuals who suffer plenty of heartbreak in their lives, with the latter eventually losing hers in a brutal manner. Spacey, during the interview scenes, exudes an aura of mystery and quiet uneasiness, basically the same style of acting he's relied on almost his entire career. Still, he's good at it, but one wonders when he'll really break out into something completely different.

The film runs smoothly for most of its running time, and the movie's first big twist, revealed with about a half-hour left, caught me off-guard, in a good way. It's the final scene that irks me. That last shot should have been omitted from the film, as it negates the purpose of much of what went on the previous two hours and might even make you lose complete respect for one of its major characters. Director Alan Parker obviously meant for this shot to chill us, and while it will probably to that effect initially, you're going to feel cheated once the credits have rolled.
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2/10
Intellectually Offensive
Halfwaytoheaven12 October 2004
Before going into this movie, I was a staunch opponent of the death penalty; afterwords, I began to have doubts. Parker decided to liven up his dreary attempt at an intelligent film with bits of rapid-fire editing that do nothing except remind the viewer that they are still awake and, indeed, watching this movie. The story is ludicrous; even Texas could never have executed this man, no matter how incompetent his defense. Even more ludicrous is the reporter who is summoned to record Gale's final statements.

She is described to the audience as a tough journalist with principles, who once went to prison to defend a source. However, her every action belies this persona. She is easily frightened, and infinitely gullible; the ease with which Gale lures her into his story is baffling, considering her supposed journalistic background.

Back to the story. While the actions of the protagonists are admirable for their daring and sacrifice, they appear to be in vain, since they don't actually prove anything. I wish someone had told the characters in this movie that innocent people already have been executed in the United States. What I found far more interesting was what befell Gale after a female student files (and later drops) a rape charge against him. The reactions of those around him to the wrongfully accused man are poignantly believable.

I find it unfortunate that this will apparently be Kevin Spacey's last foray into cinema, as he has chosen to spend his time in the theater. (Note: I have since learned that Spacey is not leaving cinema, but merely taking a break. I am relieved)
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