The Life of David Gale
|The Life of David Gale|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Alan Parker|
|Produced by||Alan Parker
|Written by||Charles Randolph|
|Music by||Alex Parker
|Edited by||Gerry Hambling|
|Distributed by||Universal Pictures|
|Running time||130 minutes and 23 seconds|
The Life of David Gale is a 2003 thriller film directed by Alan Parker and written by Charles Randolph. To date, it is Parker's last film as a director. The film is an international co-production between the United States, Germany, and the United Kingdom.
Kevin Spacey stars as the eponymous character, a college professor and longtime activist against capital punishment who is sentenced to death for killing a fellow capital punishment opponent. Kate Winslet and Laura Linney co-star.
David Gale is a prisoner on death row in Texas. With only a few days to his execution, his lawyer negotiates a half million-dollar fee to tell his story to Bitsey Bloom, a journalist from a major news magazine known for her ability to keep secrets and protect her sources. He tells her the story of how he ended up on death row, revealed to the movie audience through a series of lengthy flashbacks.
Gale is head of the philosophy department at the University of Texas and an active member of DeathWatch, a group campaigning against capital punishment. At a graduation party, he encounters Berlin, an attractive graduate student who had been expelled from the school. She corners and seduces the inebriated Gale, succeeding in getting him to have rough sex with her. She then falsely accuses Gale of rape. The next day, he loses a televised debate with the Governor of Texas when he is unable to point to an example of a demonstrably innocent man being executed during that governor's term. After losing the debate Gale is arrested and charged with rape. Gale is later acquitted of the charges, however the damage has already been done, and his family, marriage, career and reputation are all destroyed.
Constance Harraway, a fellow DeathWatch activist, is a close friend of Gale who consoles him after his life falls apart, and the pair sleep together. However, the next day Harraway is discovered raped and murdered, suffocated by a plastic bag taped over her head. An autopsy reveals that she had been forced to swallow the key of the handcuffs used to restrain her, a psychological torture technique utilized under the communist regime of Nicolae Ceauşescu, which Gale and Harraway had both protested against. The physical evidence at the crime scene points to Gale, who is convicted of her rape and murder and is, ironically, sentenced to death.
In the present, Bloom investigates the case in between her visits with Gale. She comes to believe that the apparent evidence against Gale does not add up. She is tailed several times in her car by a figure who turns out to be Dusty Wright, the alleged one-time lover and colleague of Harraway, who she suspects was the real killer. Wright slips evidence to Bloom that suggests Gale has been framed, implying that the actual murderer videotaped the crime. Bloom pursues this lead until she finds a tape revealing that Harraway, who was suffering from terminal leukemia, had committed an elaborate suicide to look like murder. She and Wright are both seen on the videotape, showing that they framed Gale as part of a plan to discredit the death penalty.
Bloom does not find this evidence until the day of Gale's scheduled execution. She tries to give the tape to the authorities in time to stop the execution. She arrives at the prison just as the warden announces that it has already been carried out. The tape is then released, causing a media and political uproar over the execution of an innocent man. Later, Wright receives the fee that Bloom's magazine agreed to pay for the interview, and delivers it to Gale's ex-wife in Spain, along with a postcard from Berlin in San Francisco apologizing for the false rape accusation. His ex-wife looks distraught, knowing Gale told the truth and that she effectively stole their child away from him.
Much later still, a videotape labelled "Off the Record" is delivered to Bloom. This tape picks up at the point where Wright confirmed that Harraway was dead, then continues on to show him stepping aside to allow Gale, also present and party to the suicide, to caress her body. It was in doing this that Gale left his fingerprints on Harraway's plastic suffocation bag, showing he knowingly sacrificed himself to prove innocent prisoners are executed.
- Kevin Spacey as David Gale
- Kate Winslet as Bitsey Bloom
- Laura Linney as Constance Harraway
- Gabriel Mann as Zack Stemmons
- Rhona Mitra as Berlin
- Leon Rippy as Braxton Belyeu
- Matt Craven as Dusty Wright
- Jim Beaver as Duke Grover
- Melissa McCarthy as Nico
- Elizabeth Gast as Sharon Gale
- Noah Truesdale as Jamie Gale
- Donald Braswell as TV Tenor
- Katina Potts as Rosie
The Life of David Gale was shot in multiple places, including: Huntsville, Texas; Sam Houston State University; The University of Texas at Austin; Garrison Hall, KLRU-TV, Austin, Texas; Metro Espresso Bar (now Cafe Medici), 2222 Guadalupe St, Austin, TX; Cain and Abel's Bar, Austin, TX; Gumbo's Louisiana Style Cafe; and Plaça Reial, Barcelona.
Critical reaction to the film was overwhelmingly negative. On Metacritic, the film has a score of 31% based on reviews from 36 critics indicating generally negative reviews. Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 19% based on reviews from 154 critics.
Chicago Sun-Times critic Roger Ebert gave it zero stars, his lowest rating, and stated, "I am sure the filmmakers believe their film is against the death penalty. I believe it supports it and hopes to discredit the opponents of the penalty as unprincipled fraudsters." Wrote Ebert, "Spacey and Parker are honorable men... The last shot made me want to throw something at the screen – maybe Spacey and Parker."
The soundtrack (composed by Alex and Jake Parker) has been used in various film trailers, specifically the tracks "The Life of David Gale" and "Almost Martyrs". The score has been used in the trailers for World Trade Center, Munich, In the Valley of Elah, Milk, and most recently, The Artist and The Iron Lady.
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- Official website
- The Life of David Gale at the Internet Movie Database
- The Life of David Gale at AllMovie
- The Life of David Gale at Box Office Mojo
- The Life of David Gale at Rotten Tomatoes
- The Life of David Gale at Metacritic