The Life of David Gale

The Life of David Gale

Directed by Alan Parker

Cult Film

Given Sir Alan Parker’s high directorial pedigree (Mississippi Burning, Bugsy Malone, Pink Floyd – The Wall, among many others), a collaboration with Kevin Spacey (Gale) and Kate Winslet (Bitsey Bloom) is a mouth-watering proposition. However, this was a film universally panned by critics. Why am I writing a review of it then? I’m not entirely sure, but there’s just something about this one.

David Gale is a professor of philosophy opposed to the death penalty and a brilliant scholar who cannot defeat the Texan Governor who “hates killing so much he will kill to stop it.” He then finds himself falsely accused of rape, subsequently acquitted, but then ends up on death row for the disturbing and brutal murder of a terminal leukaemia sufferer, who is also a good friend and fellow anti-death penalty activist. Pretty intense stuff.

While it’s clear that the justice system is convinced of his guilt, the journalist Bitsey Bloom refuses to accept it. The story now revolves around her reconstruction of events through Gale’s flashbacks, and grizzly investigations into the death.

Somehow the film ends up taking two hours, but it has a semi-morbidly fascinating air. Unfortunately the audience is left in the dark most of the time, in an attempt to set the film up for a gripping finish. Winslet and Spacey, to their credit, are very convincing in their roles and carry the film through its more uninspiring moments.

It’s easy to be drawn in by its frequent twists and turns and heavy subject matter. However, its immense directorial and casting potential is ruined by a plot that takes too many turns and distastefully flashes words like ‘innocent’ and ‘rape’ across the screen in an attempt to be more dramatic. But if you want to know how it all ends, give it a watch.
This article first appeared in Issue 26, 2014.
Posted 1:49pm Sunday 5th October 2014 by Tim Lindsay.