Bros. Pictures presents a film written and directed by
David Mamet. Running time: 106 minutes. Rated R (for violence
and language). Starring Val Kilmer, Derek Luke, Tia Texada,
William H. Macy, Ed O'Neill, Kristen Bell.
Spartan is the type of film that is best enjoyed without
any previous knowledge of the events contained within. I have
taken care to not reveal any key plot points, but it might
serve you well to come back after seeing the film.
the latest film by writer/director David Mamet (Heist,
State and Main), is like an episode of the television
series 24: fast-paced, endlessly gripping, entertaining,
impersonal and sometimes utterly implausible. The film's events
fly by at an unbelievable speed; not a moment of the film
is devoted to anything other than advancing the plot. Take
an ill-advised bathroom or snack break and you may return
to find a major character dead, betrayed, or suddenly untrustworthy.
The twists come fast and furious, sometimes likely, sometimes
the farthest thing from likely, but, at the time, it all makes
sense, because we are so caught up in the action.
President's daughter, Laura Newton, (Kristen Bell) goes missing.
She is kidnapped from a nightclub near Harvard, after her
Secret Service guard abandons his post. He's taken in for
questioning but kills himself before he gets a chance to answer
questions. On the case is Scott (Val Kilmer), a marine operative
who is given 48 hours to find the girl before the press picks
up on it and the abductors are forced to kill her. He sets
out, along with a lone partner (Derek Luke). He soon discovers
that Laura has been forced into a white slavery ring and that
her abductors don't even know who she is - she was simply
a pretty blonde in the wrong place at the wrong time. But
before he can get to those who took her, a new development
switches everything around.
dialogue of Spartan crackles with the same trademark
touches that Mamet has become known for. The characters speak
in short, clipped sentences. They use shop lingo, rather than
plot-advancing clichés ("Gentlemen, the President's
daughter has been kidnapped"). Things are revealed piece
by piece through their statments and actions. We understand
what is going on because of the characters' interactions and
responses to events. This is all too rare nowadays - a politcal
thriller that refrains from spelling everything out for the
audience. Even after the credits have rolled, it may take
a little bit of thinking to figure everything out.
is similar to the Mamet-written Wag the Dog, in that
it involves an elaborate government conspiracy. The film takes
a dark view of American politics and the electoral system,
positing that morals and concerns for human life often take
a back seat to political ambition. For a cynic like me, this
creates an intriguing backdrop for the on-screen happenings
because I can't help but think that maybe it isn't too far
from the truth.
actors can handle the unique rhythm of Mamet's writing, some
can't. Val Kilmer, a strong actor and once-rising star who
has recently been taking roles in small films, can. He makes
an imposing figure out of Scott, a man who will do anything
to get the job done. He is often devoid of much emotion, which
works in this case, allowing for a slow burn of emotion that
only ocasionally erupts. When it does, it's terrifying. William
H. Macy and Ed O'Neill both have small parts as government
officials. Macy's role only becomes clear very late in the
film and he ends up walking away with the climax.
I'm not really sure what to think of said climax. It's kind
of implausible, and a little contrived, especially the way
a news crew just happens to be at the scene. But it does succeed
in getting the blood pumping, which is what Spartan is
all about, really. You might be confused, you might roll your
eyes or wince once or twice. But I swear: you will never be
2004 Matt Noller