Spacey's a Suspect Again
With just three days to go till he is due to be executed, death row inmate professor David Gale (Kevin Spacey) a member of DeathWatch, a group campaigning against capital punishment, agrees to give an interview but only to journalist Bitsey Bloom (Kate Winslet) who is convinced he is guilty of murder due to the evidence. As Gale starts talking to Bitsey he takes her back to where it all started to go wrong when a student took advantage of him being drunk at a party and before he knows it he is being accused of rape. It leads to the destruction of his career and professional image but it gets worse when after sleeping with fellow DeathWatch activist Constance Harraway (Laura Linney) she is found murdered and what evidence there is points to Gale. But as Bitsey listens to Gale she starts to believe he is telling her the truth when he says he is innocent and she starts to look for the truth.
"The Life of David Gale" is a did he do it movie, it's all about whether or not David Gale murdered his friend Constance Harraway and as the story plays out we go from knowing nothing to knowing plenty and understanding not all is as it first seems. That's great but it does mean that "The Life of David Gale" is one of those movies which is only truly effective when watched with the minimum of knowledge and when watched a second time starts to fall to bits. For that reason I have left many things out of that synopsis and won't where possible go in to detail.
Now "The Life of David Gale" reminded me of "The Usual Suspects" as we have Kevin Spacey telling us what happened, leading us through a back story of events. Plus because this is a did he do it that previous knowledge of Spacey's role in that earlier movie starts to play on your mind especially with him being a death row activist who finds himself on death row. Of course that is part of the point; this movie wants us to question everything and whether or not Gale's incarceration is some big stunt to prove his point that innocent men have been sentenced to death. But of course that is too obvious from the word go and so you not only begin to doubt yourself but look for how more elaborate it can be, maybe someone with a vendetta against him is trying to stitch him up.
This is the issue with "The Life of David Gale" as it is elaborate and the sort of elaborate which sucks you in during the first time you watch it with this cloud of mystery which means you don't want to miss a second in case you miss something. But afterwards when you begin to contemplate what you have watched and think about the detail you begin to see things unravel, not catastrophically but enough to make you think damn it. It also means that "The Life of David Gale" doesn't work as well during a second watch as the mystery is gone and so is the shock because there are some graphic scenes.
Now "The Life of David Gale" has some good actors in Kate Winslet and Laura Linney but it is Kevin Spacey who makes the movie. Yet whilst it is a good performance from Spacey what he brings to the movie is his history as an actor and the niggling feeling brought on from remembering his role in "The Usual Suspects".
What this all boils down to is that "The Life of David Gale" is an impressive movie and when only watched the once it is easy to get swept up by this slowly forming jigsaw puzzle of intrigue. But unfortunately when considered in hindsight some of what impresses you end up not so impressive after all.