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Spartan /

Rated: R

Starring: Tia Texada, Ed O'Neill, Val Kilmer, Kristen Bell, Alexandra Kerry

Directed by: David Mamet

Produced by: Moshe Diamant, Art Linson, Elie Samaha
Written by: David Mamet
Distributor: Warner Brothers

 

     David Mamet is one of the few writer/directors in the business, who bring the adrenaline that average political-thrillers nowadays lack, back into the typically conventional genre. He captivates his audience, taking full advantage of every element of film. His score plays loudly, relying on each note of music to play. His characters tap tables and drop pens right on queue, building suspense in all the right ways. His sets match the color of the mood of each scene. All the little things are in place, and this is rarely the case with any motion picture. A filmmaker who pays attention to detail is always a great one. In each of his creations, and particularly Spartan, Mamet establishes one thingóthat he cares. As simplistic as this may seem, itís a rarity that all viewers will be able to appreciate.

     The setup of Spartan seems usual. The presidentís daughter (Kristen Bell) is kidnapped from the Boston area, near Harvard. Scott (Val Kilmer), a marine operative, is assigned to her case, and has two short days to locate her. If he isnít able to complete this task, the media will become aware of the kidnapping, and election-time turmoil will ensue. At the beginning of the film, the case appears to be an ordinary one, the motive determined by political disagreement. As time moves on, it begins to develop into something more out of the ordinary, as does the style of Spartan. Mamet has created an intellectual twister with a surprising level of insight behind it. The plot-turns are not only thrilling, but some of the most intelligent Iíve seen in the last five years.

     The single error that Mamet makes is also the most noticeable aspect of the movie, though. This is his allowing of loopholes in the story. In completing the screenplay, he faced a lose-lose situation. To enable himself to bring about the very perspicacity that makes the movie, Mamet was forced to bend the rules of modern filmmaking, in a negative way. A writer should never leave a single plot-hole in a script, if there isnít a distinct meaning behind its exclusion. However, because of the attachment that viewers will develop for Mametís style throughout Spartan, most will be able to accept the fashion in which he wraps up the story. While I was shaken by the conclusion of the film, I also felt a bit cheated by its lubricity.

     Kilmer leads Spartan with a gritty and commanding force. His character doesnít just appear to be hard-nosed, but rather overwhelms the audience with his firm grasp. Throughout Spartan, hardly any of Scottís true personality is shown. Strangely, this works in a magical way. Is he compassionate, or is this just a requirement of his job? My opinion on him changed on a moment-to-moment basis. Consider the time in which he uses his former co-workerís prized possession, a tiny Army Ranger conduct-pamphlet of sorts, to help in making a cigarette for the presidentís daughter. Is it cruel of him to be burning such a memorable, myth-like document, or an amiable action, to be providing her with a cigarette in a desperate time? Later on in the movie, itís a little easier to develop an opinion about Scott. However, I do like the fact that Spartan focuses more of the duties of his character, than his inner-thoughts. That sort idea has a place in film, but not in this movie.

     Mametís previous projects have all been wonderful, full of admirable little quirks in a tired genre, but I actually believe Spartan to be one of his best works. When I speak of its flaws, Iím not entirely sure whether theyíre significant at all. Does Spartan want to be taken as a serious piece, with a rather prevalent opinion, or just a regular cop-drama? Maybe I really am thinking too highly of it. And in this very idea, I have reached yet another problem with the picture. But Spartan has clearly left me thinking, and I can say this upon its behalf, right? Right.

-Danny, Bucket Reviews


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