THE LIFE OF DAVID GALE or "the usual suspects are burning in mississippi"
STARING: Kevin Spacey, some Blonde woman, a young fella maybein his late twenties and another woman (one of the women was in Titanic, or so I am told).
RUNNING TIME: 10 minutes too long.
WATCHED: rented on a weeknight (august 7th, 2003) on CD for something like $2.60.
This was an excellent movie that causes an excellent dillemma for me (and this just my third review!).
Here's the problem: To review this movie is to take at least the chance of wrecking it for anyone who reads the review (with me so far?) To not review it would be non-sensical as it is what I want to do. However, from your perspective, reading this before you see the movie may make the movie less enjoyable while reading it afterwards makes little sense - unless you just want to see whether or not I agree with you. Which is fine.
Here is how I am going to fix it:
Is it just me or do writers, producers and directors, when dealing with a script that has crazy twists, shortlist the actors they want for the lead to ONLY Kevin Spacey? Or is it that Kevin Spacey ONLY will look at scripts where there is going to be some serious twisting? I guess my question could be put thusly: Why was Kevin Spacey not in The Sixth Sense?
But I digress.
I used to think that Kevin was an amazing actor (a lot of people did, hence the award for it) but am beginning to realize that, by always acts the same way in what amounts to the same part, he manages to make every movie he is in be about Kevin Spacey and his movie career. Still, I guess I just like the same movies he does. I liked this one.
And it isn't just that he and I both like scripts which have twists. The twists have to be, in retrospect, so deliciously obvious that it leaves you going "Oh, I knew that was what happened", even when we all know that you (of all people) didn't.
The high ground: This movie is about exploring morality. It is about exploring the morality of a country that abhours the evils of murder, and yet murders its own citizens. Taken in the political context of our immediate time, I would say it is also a movie that comments negtatively (yet subtly) on the Bush (Jr.) administration and their collective morality. Like all stories, it is about right and wrong. Unlike some morality stories it is about what kind of paradoxical behaviour a person might be willing to exhibit in order to prove a point. This movie asks the question "what is the value of a human life" and then places the answer to this question deeply within context (and by that I mean context in general). It does this in order to demonstrate that, without context, the question is meaningless.
Is it acceptable to kill to stop killing? Can you make war for peace? Can you kill people to stop abortions? Is it okay to kill the innocent to stop the death penalty? These are paradoxical questions of human behaviour that we deal with all the time (well, not ALL the time, but some of us, some of the time, having nothing better planned, do, occasionally, think about these things). Can you morally justify killing to avoid killing? Does self sacrafice make it different? How far would you (should you) go to make your point? How aweful does a screenwriter have to make a character's life before an average audience will, by and large, understand and empathize when that character throws it away? How big does the "shitty life vs. sie of cause" differential have to be before it is acceptable.
I really enjoyed this movie. It made me think (can you tell?). I hope it made a lot of people think. It had a very blatent immediate message but also raised questions on many levels. Questions such as "why couldn't they have got supportinmg characters who could act?" or "Even assuming the supporting characters can act, why could the screenwriters not have given them something to act upon?". If there was a failing of this movie (other than the lack of exploding helicopters and chase scenes that are always lacking in this type of movie) it was that the plot got so much attention (and deserved a lot) that the characters got kind of left behind. Kevin was his great, usual, creepy self with his agenda hidden just below the skin within an air of superiority in his knowing that he knows more than anyone else. He is always good at acting like he knows more than everyone, particularl when. for the character, it is true. Of the back up dancers (er, reporters) in the movie the he was tolerable and the she either was given nothing to work with or had nothing to work with (if you follow the distinction). Kevin's character's best friend (the slightly homely, but loveable and attractive in that way that real life people can not seem to achieve) deserves a best supporting statue for holding the balance of being such a down to earth, good person as well as maintaining such an effective hard-done-by thinks-she-would-be-jilted-if-she-tried-anything lover....
.... but I keep coming back to the reporter and her intern. Someone really should have said, "okay, in or out of the movie but close the door because you are losing a lot of heat". The intern did a good job but face it, the parts could have been payed by a series of cardboard cutouts. I was particularly insulted with how shallow Ms. Reporter was. I was insulted because some idiot thought that I was interested in watching her "grow". And maybe I would have been IF THAT HAD BEEN WHAT THE MOVIE WAS ABOUT! But it wasn't. And I wasn't. She didn't need to be convinced of anything and if she was then it should have been done better.
So stop reading this and go rent the movie all ready. It is worth it. The plot is predictable (now that I have seen it). While watching I knew it would be predictable in retrospect so it was fun to try to pay enough attention to figure it all out (and I did figure out some things and nothing surprised me - mostly becauise I knew it was going to). The movie was edited well and moves along at a good pace(although the pace of the film could have better reflected the pressure within the content). You will either come out of it thinking it was stoopid or thinking it was pretty decent and raised some interesting points. I doubt anyone will LOVE this movie. I know that, in a perfect world of my choosing, no one would.
Oh .... If you thought it was stoopid, particularly if you are the type of person who, immediately following the movie, says to all within ear-shot "THAT was STUPID!" as if this somehow is just so obvious to EVERYONE and you are so clever and sophisticated for noticing, then don't ever talk to me. Thanks.