The Life Of David Gale

Smart race-against-Death-Row drama

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OPENS MARCH 14, CERT 15, 130 MINS

Director Alan Parker’s hand stays near-invisible as a crisply literate script gives Kevin Spacey a field day. The film wavers when its climax tries for one twist too many, and because a crucial plot point depends on an otherwise thoroughly efficient woman’s car breaking down (doh!), but until then enough brain and muscle keep it motoring. It focuses on Gale (Spacey), a Texas intellectual and opponent of the death penalty who’s incarcerated for the rape and murder of fellow activist Constance (Laura Linney). Was he stitched up by wrathful conservatives, or does his past prove he’s capable of evil? As reporter Bitsey (Kate Winslet) hears his confessions?his dalliance with a student, broken marriage, lapse into alcoholism?she struggles to clarify the grey areas. Parker coaxes the clues out, pinpointing intense moral ambiguities.

Spacey’s back to his best, spouting Socrates while drunk. You’ll forgive that shaky ending. Courageous, by mainstream standards.

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