starring Kevin Spacey, Kate Winslet, Laura Linney, Gabriel Mann, Matt Craven, Leon Rippy and Rhoma Mitra
written by Charles Randolph
directed by Alan parker
produced by Alan Parker and Nicolas Cage
When I saw the credits of this film I instantly wondered if producer Nicolas Cage was the actor Nicolas Cage. Are the names spelled differently? I don’t know, but I don’t think so. Chances are, this producer is the actor guy. Good for him, too. Getting more into the business off the camera. There is less fame and recognition there, but more power.
This is a good film on which to do such a thing, too - I mean be responsible behind the camera: a strong performance by Kevin Spacey (The Usual Suspects, K-Pac, The Shipping News) and Kate Winslet (Titanic, Enigma, Smoke). Set in the State of Texas and featuring the maximum-security penitentiary in Huntsville, Texas (where the state’s death row and death chamber are found), The Life of David Gale centers on the socially contentious issue of the death penalty in America.
David Gale is a brilliant, renown and reputable Austinuniversity philosophy professor and anti-death penalty campaigner who falls afoul of the law and ends up on death row himself for the murder of a female colleague (Laura Linney) from his pro-life organization headquarters. Talk about irony, it is a dramatic turn-around for a prominent anti-execution activist. But he is silent about his motives until almost the very end, when he invites investigative journalist Bitsey Bloom (Kate Winslet) for a series of interviews. The murder for which Gale was convicted makes no sense, and in short order Bitsey decides she has discovered a conspiracy to frame the anti-death penalty professor. She has, and she finds videotape evidence of it, too. But too late. Gale is executed before the exonerating videotape can be shown to authorities. What a tragic boon to the anti-death penalty cause. Finally, undeniable proof that the capital punishment system indeed does not work, and truly innocent people are in fact wrongly put to death by the State.
But the big twist, the real conspiracy is even cleverer. It turns out that David Gale conspired with others to frame himself - making the death by suicide of his terminally ill friend Constance Harraway deliberately look like a murder perpetrated by him for the sole purpose of forcing the police to charge him with murder, forcing the district attorney to seek a death penalty prosecution, and turning him into an innocent martyr for the very purpose of serving the anti-death penalty cause. Tres bizarre. But a brilliant twist, I think, and well executed (no pun intended). Gale knows how the police and prosecutor operate, so it is not big problem for him to set the scene and provide the forensic and circumstantial evidence to frame himself. Why would he do such a thing? It is unconvincing to say the least that devotion to the anti-death penalty cause is sufficient explanation. More likely, he was despondent over the disintegration of his marriage and separation from his only son and that these things, in combination with his devotion to his social mission lead him to this sacrifice. These are strange days, indeed.