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The Life of David Gale
David Gale is a man who has tried to live by his principles, but in a bizarre twist of fate this devoted father, popular professor and respected death penalty opponent finds himself on Death Row for...  View more >

Starring Kevin Spacey, Kate Winslet, Laura Linney...  View more >

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Please Note: Reader Reviews are submitted by the readers of The BigScreen Cinema Guide and represent their own personal opinions regarding this movie, and do not represent the views of The BigScreen Cinema Guide, or any of its associated entities.

Feb 21, 2003
The Life of David Gale, directed by Alan Parker and written by Charles Randolph, undertakes the difficult task of presenting serious material through a dramatic-thriller. David Gale (Kevin Spacey) is a brilliant man with a destructive lifestyle; a false rape charge destroys his existence, and a separate murder conviction sends him to Texas\' death row. The six-year appeal process, relatively short in terms of actual capital punishment appeals, fails to overturn the ruling, and he agrees to a series of interviews four days before his scheduled execution. Gale and his lawyer provide a reporter\'s name in their list of stipulations for the interviews, and esteemed journalist Bitsey Bloom (Kate Winslet) readily accepts the assignment. Bloom has two hours for three days to get her story. Gale has two hours for three days to convince her that he is an innocent man.

The film succeeds as a crime thriller and provides viewers with intelligent characters and a complicated plot. Audience members must completely surrender themselves to films in this genre because thrillers simply do not represent reality. Thrillers are too clean and contrived, and in the end the protagonist prevails or somehow induces a restoration of justice. Real life is unpredictable and messy--there is no certainty that a person\'s time or efforts will lead anyone to an objective truth or instigate the reversal of a social or political evil. Still, people willingly agree to suspend disbelief, and so many unbelievable minor details and overdone moments in the film are readily forgiven.

More substantial details and scenes, however, should not elude criticism. The director, writer, and creative team enjoy a freedom detached from pure actuality, but a smart script must stay smart from start to finish. A truly commendable script cannot include any glaring errors that take advantage of a viewer\'s willingness to believe the unbelievable or compromise the overall integrity of a film with scenes that are important and necessary but ill-conceived and pretentiously included in the final cut. The Life of David Gale, told in flashbacks from Gale\'s perspective, fails in this respect at two key moments: the first instance establishes a possible jealousy motive for the reticent Dusty (Matt Craven), and the second instance reinforces Constance Hallaway\'s (Laura Linney) dedication to the Death Watch cause and the desperation that results from each failed attempt to stay or prevent an execution. These moments undoubtedly enhance the film\'s plot, but Gale could not have related this information to Bloom; he didn\'t see Dusty\'s envious eyes, and he wasn\'t in the office when Hallaway cried in a rage of despair.

These oversights deserve mention, but they do not invalidate the film. Despite these faults, the film is thoroughly engaging because of a decent script with wonderful moments, noteworthy performances by Spacey and Linney, and eye-catching camera work and editing. Unfortunately, though, The Life of David Gale deserves more profound criticism for resorting to Hollywood thriller sequences and techniques that keep audience members on the edge of their seats at the expense of undermining the anti-death penalty message. True statistics including that the death penalty does not deter crime and that many states without capital punishment report lower crime rates than states with capital punishment evade audience comprehension even though Hallaway asks Gale if he hears her reciting these facts, which is a somewhat forced line included only for the viewers\' benefit. Gale hears Hallaway but the audience members do not because the thriller does not put them in a thoughtful or reflective state-of-mind. The viewer is suspending disbelief and anticipating the car chases, graphic displays of violence, and other situations steeped in suspense and conflict while he or she is told what to feel with a domineering pop soundtrack; the viewer is not paying attention to numbers or parallels to the real world because of the nature of the genre. The Texas governor\'s physical resemblance to George W. Bush and Gale\'s comment that \"good thing our governor is in touch with his inner frat-boy\" should remind people that this film has a relevant political message, but these cheap devices only receive a few snickers and unfairly suggest that capital punishment is the fault of one person rather than the fault of a thriving historical eye-for-an-eye mentality that exists in this particular state and in other parts of the country.

The message is undermined by the industry\'s need to produce a blockbuster, and though many of the characters are intelligent, all but Gale are stale archetypes. Berlin (Rhona Mitra) is the gorgeous graduate student who seduces Gale and charges him with rape--an extreme but familiar ploy Gale calls the graduate student revenge. Zack (Gabriel Mann) is the bright, hard-working intern paired with the achieved Bloom who arrogantly dismisses his abilities. Braxton Belyeu (Leon Rippy) is the southern lawyer without an impressive record who treats women politely but demeans them with his syrupy condescension. Hallaway is the self-sacrificing human rights activist who lives for others at the expense of her own health--a true follower of Jacques Lacant. The script turns Hallaway and nearly every other character into a crazed fanatic, which again taints the film\'s most obvious message, but one must realize that this choice is deliberate; none of the characters have anything to lose.

Gale is the only character that breaks an archetype mold, but the viewer remains detached and doesn\'t become emotionally invested in his plight because he is too pathetic too soon in the flashbacks and almost entirely void of emotion in the conversations with Bloom. His one tearful breakdown seems unmotivated until the end, though Spacey arguably made all of the right choices for this character. Regrettably, even all of the right choices by Spacey and Linney and a steady performance by Winslet and most of the others do not compel the audience to realize the horrifying nature of these circumstances or to care about its real-life implications.
Feb 27, 2003
"The Life of David Gale," is a tense drama about a professor who protested the death Penality, ends up on death row for a crime that he didn't commit. Kate winslet is the journalist who was granted an interview with the inmate four days before he's about to be executed.

I felt uneasy by the subject matter of the movie. Last fall when I saw "Serving Sara," there's a big sign at the Texas airport which reads, "Welcome to Texas, Home of Old Sparkly." Which is refered to the electric chair. The film deals with captial punishment system in Texas. And deal with it very well.

Directed by Alen Parker, "David Gale" isn't as good as "Dead Man Walking" another film which deals with captial punishment, but strong performances by Spacy & Winslet, has given the film a good review.
Mar 2, 2003
Kevin Spacey couldn\'t have done it better. This movie is great.
Apr 9, 2003
Winslet was awesome, but the movie was too predictable. I didn\'t find it preachy, but it was not particularly enlightening either.

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