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The Life Of David Gale (2003)

Directed by:

Alan Parker

Rating: 6/10

Running Time: 130 minutes

UK Certificate: 15

It can be hard to imagine that the average movie-goer is strongly opposed to the death penalty, given that a death sentence of one form or another is traditionally the silver screen's way of disposing with the ne'er-do-wells of this world. But it's an issue that's been covered time and time again, and chances are it'll be covered again in the future – and probably far more impressively than it is in The Life of David Gale.

The ever-reliable Kevin Spacey is on his usual consistent form as the title character, a smugger-than-smug academic and anti-death penalty activist who ends up on death row (wouldn'tcha know it!) for the murder of fellow campaigner Constance Harraway (a frumpified Laura Linney). But Kate Winslet is less than inspiring as Bitsey Bloom (seriously, that's really what she's called), the investigative journalist who, surprise surprise, discovers there's more to Gale's case than meets the eye – although that's only after having the clues quite literally dangled in front of her face.

It's obvious from the word go that there's a twist on the way, but chances are you'll have guessed what that twist is long before the film reaches its climax. Then there's the downright irritating use of what can only be described as random words flashing up on screen between jumps back and forward in time. Someone really needs to sit director Alan Parker down and explain to him that we're just about capable of understanding the concept of flashbacks without having them signposted by strobe lights and what sounds distressingly like bongo music.

There are, however, genuine moments of suspense, and if you try to put some of the more ridiculous and/or contrived chunks of the plot to the back of your mind (admittedly no easy task) you'll find it an enjoyable enough ride.

It's Got: Kate Winslet playing a woman with a daft name who runs like a girlie.

It Needs: Better direction to cover up, even if only slightly, what most will find to be a hugely obvious ending.

Alternatives:

Dead Man Walking, The Green Mile

Summary

Big things have been expected of this picture but, although certainly not one of the worst films you’ll see this year, it’s nowhere near as provocative as it clearly aspires to be.