Spartan: One Riot, One Ranger
Jan 15, 2005
Review by George Chabot
Rated a Very Helpful Review
Pros:Val Kilmer, Supporting Cast, Story, Direction, Score
Cons:We have finally got some decent movies in the spy genre, at long last!
The Bottom Line: Spartan is a edge of your seat thriller that does great credit to the spy genre. Must see!
Recommend this product?
"Leonidas, King of Sparta... when a neighboring state would plead for military aid, would send one man." Laura Newton
"Honey, you got all the slack in the world until I leave this room. Then I'm gonna zero you out." Scott
A gripping spy thriller that keeps you on the edge of your seat is Spartan, David Mamet's best work since House of Games.
Mamet has had an illustrious career, being involved in such prestigious films as The Untouchables, The Verdict, and the salty take on sales Glengarry Glen Ross. Known for his punchy, profane dialog, Mamet has hit his perfect stride here with a wonderful screenplay about a nameless man operating underneath the radar. As George Orwell so aptly stated, "People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf."
Such a man is Scott (Val Kilmer - Tombstone, Heat, Alexander) - we're really not sure that's his real name, and it doesn't matter; what is important is he is a doer. Like a laser-guided missile, Scott locks in on his target and destroys it, leaving only a smoking hole as evidence he has been there. Kilmer likes the idea of being a button man; he doesn't have to plan anything, decide the right thing to do, or assess the consequences. He leaves all that thinking to others. What he is good at is getting the job done, and he doesn't ask any needless questions. The film illustrates perfectly the government's policy of "Need to Know" - huge teams, separated by function, carry out the missions, each only knowing its discrete part while men like Kilmer act as the point of the spear...The oversight from the top and logic behind the operation remains hidden to the operators, and that's just fine by him. "I'm a worker bee," he says.
As Director, Mamet sets the perfect pace, unlike some of his other efforts, like the forgettable "Heist," but you have to pay attention as Mamet has a bag of tricks and is very resourceful in telling a twisty, convoluted story. The plot is fairly straightforward, but how Mamet gets you from point A to point B is the whole point here. I do not want to reveal too much of the story, as the whole point of a thriller is to thrill you. For those of you that insist: the plot involves a VIP kidnapping. There - I told you. If you haven't seen it and like the spy genre, rest assured Spartan delivers the goods.
I have to hand it to Mamet and other directors for handling shooting in such a reasonable and realistic manner in recent films. As a shooter myself, I know what can and cannot be done with a gun and most of Hollywood's screen gunfights prior to Black Hawk Down, Tears of the Sun, Collateral, and Way of the Gun have been totally preposterous. Mamet hired weapons and tactics expert Eric Haney, founding member of Delta Force, to train Val Kilmer to shoot and move, and very well I might add. Note the economy of movement and concentration the actors have when they go through their paces. For outstanding and realistic gun handling, you should look to the films I've listed. Now, back to Spartan...
The film boasts an ensemble cast in addition to the redoubtable Kilmer, who does his best work since "Tombstone." Tia Texada and Derek Luke provide a pair of bright-eyed and bushy tailed junior operatives, while Mamet regular William H. Macy and a host of other familiar faces populate the film frame in the large, but uniformly excellent cast. Kristen Bell also plays a key role, although she enters after the halfway point. The cinematography and film editing by Juan Ruiz Anchia and Barbara Tulliver, respectively, do an excellent job of putting Mamet's vision on celluloid. Many evocative camera angles and lighting challenges add to the viewing experience and help expose the story. The editing keeps the story flowing with very little fat left in, unlike many recent films that seem to run about 45 minutes too long. Original music by Elliott Goldkind and Mark Isham is spare and suits the subject matter well.
The Warner Bros DVD clocks in at a terse 107 minutes and is presented in 2.35:1 theatrical format in color. There are English, French, and Spanish subtitles included and Val Kilmer does a full-length commentary that explains quite a bit about the film making process and various actors and acting challenges. The theatrical trailer completes the package.
More spy films I highly recommend include -
The Spy Who Came in from the Cold
Enjoy a good film tonight. Thanks for reading!
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