Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Spartan (2004)

As enjoyable and smart as any of his other works, Spartan is another great script by David Mamet that's backed up with his solid direction. It may feel more open than many of his previous works, but it's still very much a character piece full of the cool dialogue and twisty turny mindgames that populate all Mamet movies.

Val Kilmer plays the lead character, Scott, a top military man who helps find out just who has what it takes for life in the tougher roles. He is asked to help out when the daughter of someone very important goes missing, but as the investigation uncovers a number of uncomfortable details it soon becomes clear to some people that Scott may end up causing embarrassment for some. When the case comes to an end, Scott then finds himself in a very strange situation. The mind that was so valued by the military, and his country, has now put him in a lot of danger.

There's nothing here that's really original, especially to viewers who have enjoyed the wealth of American TV detective shows in recent years (from the C.S.I to Monk, as the best examples), but what is here is given a thin coating of just enough paint to make it seem nice and new. The direction, also by Mamet, is unspectacular, but it's probably no coincidence that Mamet the director knows how best to serve the material provided by Mamet the writer.

Kilmer is great in the lead role, it's certainly one of his best performances in the past decade (which, admittedly, isn't saying much since he started to slide downhill in his career, sadly . . . . . I am still holding out for a great comeback though). The supporting cast features Clark Gregg, William H. Macy, Derek Luke, Kristen Bell, Aaron Stanford and Ed O'Neill, and all of them do good enough work, despite Bell being the weak link. Macy is particularly good fun, while the twists and turns make every performance worth closer scrutiny than usual.

It's not quite up there with some of Mamet's better movies, but this is still a very good film indeed, and one that deserves to retain a loyal fanbase through the years.



  1. Very underrated thriller. Being a writer-who-directs, Mamet's films tend to be visually weak, but Spartan is the exception. I think he is getting more comfortable with the camera.

    1. Agreed, although I can't think of a movie from him that I haven't enjoyed.