The Life of David Gale should be a bigger movie than it is. Its got great actors, giving very good performances in a movie delivering a story that is both important and controversial without being over dramatic or preachy. It has tv-movie recognition when it should be considered a powerful drama.
The film considers the issues surrounding the death sentence and campaigns to stop it. The biggest advocate against it is David Gale, a lecturer campaigning against capital punishment who ironically finds himself on death row when he is convicted of a murder he may or may not have committed.
Put in a clear synopsis like this, the movie doesn’t seem that special and is hardly going to win any prizes for originality but the delivery of the tale adds a different edge. The story is told in almost complete flashback, with Kevin Spacey’s Gale recounting his story to Kate Winslet’s sceptical reporter. It is then her job to piece together the facts, embellishments and work out whether Spacey’s Gale is innocent.
The mystery is great and the way in which it is drip-fed to the audience, always giving just enough away, is delivered brilliantly. It helps that there are some great performances guiding the story. Winslet does scared, sceptical investigator very well and demonstrates Oscar-winning talent. There is some great support from Laura Linney, who is consistently solid in everything she does and hugely underrated. The real star is Kevin Spacey though. This is one of his better performances, seeing him take on the role of intelligent protestor, desperate professor or Hannibal Lecter style protagonist, guiding Winslet slowly to the truth.
The actual revelation to the whole mystery is also a good one. It isn’t absurd but borders slightly on the far-fetched or even silly. It proves a point and makes the film makers opinion on the matter of capital punishment quite clear. It isn’t the greatest of twists and is guess-able but the delivery of the ending is suspense-filled and had enough about it to stop it being too “Hollywood.”
Overall, The Life of David Gale is a well-acted, powerful and very interesting story. It tackles a very controversial issue with both tact and also good story telling, delivering a mystery that has a decent, if slightly absurd ending. Add to that the inclusion of Kate Winslet, Laura Linney and the excellent Kevin Spacey and you wonder why more people haven’t heard of this great movie.
Rating – 4
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