Spartan (film)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Spartan movie.jpg
Directed by David Mamet
Produced by David Bergstein
Moshe Diamant
Art Linson
Elie Samaha
Written by David Mamet
Starring Val Kilmer
Derek Luke
William H. Macy
Kristen Bell
Tia Texada
Ed O'Neill
Music by Mark Isham
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release dates
  • January 31, 2004 (2004-01-31) (Bangkok)
  • March 12, 2004 (2004-03-12)
Running time 106 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $23 million
Box office $8,112,712

Spartan is a 2004 American political thriller film written and directed by David Mamet. It features Val Kilmer, Derek Luke, Tia Texada, Ed O'Neill, William H. Macy, and Kristen Bell. It was released in the United States and Canada on 12 March 2004.


Robert Scott is a former Force Recon Master Gunnery Sergeant, acting as a selection cadre member for Delta Force. While observing an exercise designed to evaluate Delta candidates, Scott meets a recruit, Curtis, as well as Sergeant Jacqueline Black, a knife-fighting instructor. Both ask Scott to keep them in mind for future missions.

Scott is drawn into a clandestine operation to find the President's daughter, Laura Newton. The team has two days before the media reports her missing from classes at Harvard.

They begin by investigating one of her philandering professors and her boyfriend. It leads to a bar where girls are recruited as prostitutes, and Scott's team follows a middleman to a bordello that funnels some of these girls to an international sex slavery ring. The madam sends them to a pay phone, which leads Scott and Curtis to a beach house. Scott tries to bluff his way past one man in the house, but a second man approaches armed, forcing Scott and Curtis to kill the men in self-defense before they can learn anything more.

Calls placed to the pay phone are traced back to Tariq Asani, a Lebanese national in a federal prison. They plan to stage a robbery to intercept Asani during a prisoner transport.

At a gas station en route, Scott appears to kill the transport guard, then kills the other inmate (who was on death row). He spares Asani when he says he can get them on a plane out of the country that night. Asani then offers Scott a girl, as thanks for his help, and with a little digging from Scott confirms the sex slavery ring is based in Dubai.

Scott stops at a convenience store to relay the information to the team. Curtis provides him with more ammunition, but Asani happens to spot the badge of the agent talking with Curtis and opens fire from the parking lot. Curtis is wounded and Scott has to kill Asani.

As the team prepares a stealthy assault on the ring's base in Dubai, a news broadcast reports that Laura and her college professor were discovered drowned while sailing off the coast of Martha's Vineyard. Consequently, the rescue operation is called off. Scott returns home, but Curtis persuades him that she couldn't have been killed in the boating accident because he found an earring on the porch of the boathouse identical to the ones she is wearing in a photograph.

When they return to the beach house to investigate, Curtis is killed by a sniper on a nearby boat. Scott finds Laura's unique "sign" in a window in the boathouse, indicating she was there. He escapes and tries to contact Laura's mother with the evidence, but is prevented by a Secret Service agent. When he shows her the earring, the agent explains that for years the President has used visits to his daughter as a cover for extramarital affairs, and that he pulled Laura's Secret Service detail to use as extra protection for himself during the trip.

The agent pleads with Scott to rescue Laura, telling him the girl's parents are purely political animals who agreed to fake Laura's death rather than deal with the fallout from the public learning the truth. As evidence, the agent gives Scott a set of photo-booth photographs of herself with Laura as a child.

Scott enlists Sgt. Black to help him rescue the girl from Dubai. Cut off from his team, Scott turns to Avi, a former Israeli operative now working in the private sector. Avi agrees to get him into Dubai and get Laura out concealed in a cargo container, obtaining weapons for him and support from a man known as Jones, an Australian mercenary.

Jones is killed during the rescue. Scott flees with Laura to a safe house, where he persuades her that although he is alone, he is acting under orders: "One riot, one ranger." Correctly guessing that his mission lacks official support, she says that King Leonidas of Sparta would respond to requests for help from neighboring kingdoms by sending one man, and decides to trust him.

When he takes Laura to the airport to seal her in the cargo container, Scott discovers he is being tracked when he finds a transmitter hidden in his knife. He rushes her out of the container just as his old team arrives to apprehend them. Scott is shot and separated from Laura, who is captured and bustled off toward a plane.

Scott is pursued by Stoddard, who reveals that Laura could have lived in slavery but must now be killed to maintain the cover story. When Laura fights back, her captor reveals herself as Sgt. Black, who shows photos from the trusted Secret Service agent, convincing Laura to stop struggling. A Swedish news crew witnesses the struggle as they are about to board their plane. Sgt. Black is shot by Stoddard. The journalists recognize Laura and get her safely aboard. Just as the jet takes off, Stoddard's throat is slit by Scott.

Later from a London city street, Scott is shown watching a news broadcaster on a television in a shop window. It is reported that Laura's death was faked as a cover for her rescue. The government spins the story of Laura's kidnapping as an opportunity for the President to take action to end the trafficking of American girls as sex slaves.


Origin of title[edit]

Spartan's title makes multiple allusions:

  • King Leonidas I, of Sparta, is said to have sent one soldier when a neighboring state requested military aid.
  • As Scott says, "One riot, one Ranger". Previously, Mamet used that dialogue in House of Games; and it has subsequently been used in The Unit. The remark is said to be Texas Rangers lore.
  • The film's minimalist style, from the characters' clipped dialogue; to its music (violin and, later, bagpipes, used sparingly); to Mamet's efficient resolution of a plot line that frequently (and intentionally) threatens to become unwieldy.
  • The recurring use of dialogue reinforcing the basic story line -- "Where is the girl?", "I'm here to get the girl back", "Is she safe?", etc. -- intended to emphasize the minimalist narrative style that the film's title evokes.
  • The automatic knife used in the film is "The Spartan" by Severtech and was designed for this film.[1]


The Dubai locales were actually filmed in Los Angeles. Eric L. Haney, a retired U.S. Army Command Sergeant Major who operated in Delta Force, was the technical advisor, and briefly appears. After Spartan, he and Mamet created The Unit television series about an Army unit mirroring Delta Force.

Alexandra Kerry, daughter of then U.S. Senator (now secretary of state) John Kerry, is a bartender in the film. David Mamet's Rabbi, Mordechai Finley, appears as one of the training cadre.


Spartan received mixed but generally good reviews and has a score of 64% on Rotten Tomatoes and 60% on Metacritic. Roger Ebert in The Chicago Sun-Times gave the film a four-star rating saying that "The particular pleasure of 'Spartan' is to watch the characters gradually define themselves and the plot gradually emerge like your face in a steamy mirror."[2] Tim Robey in The Daily Telegraph felt the film was let down by a "botched" finale, "as though Mamet felt obliged to reproduce a standard-issue Tom Clancy climax while knowing that this wasn't the way to go."[3]


  1. ^ Riley, Aaron (2004). "Severtech Knives Proudly Announces "The Spartan"". Retrieved 2008-08-01. 
  2. ^ Ebert, Roger (12 March 2004). "Spartan Film Review". Chicago Sun-Times. 
  3. ^ Robey, Tim (6 August 2004). "House of cards tumbles down". The Daily Telegraph. 

External links[edit]