Spartan (2004)


Leave it up to David Mamet to write and direct what a true spy film should be and has to be. What starts off as a full procedural evolves in to a film in the spirit of “Three Days in the Condor”. As per usual Mamet, his film rapidly evolves from scene to scene, and what I thought would be a cold procedural film that would usually be a stupid show on CBS, quickly evolved into a very well characterized thriller. And films with Val Kilmer have, of late, left me skittish to enter it, but Kilmer really leads a truly well drawn thriller that I had fun with.

“Spartan” is basically a very confusing but utterly charismatic spy thriller about a mystery that unfolds further and further all the way until the climax that quickly reminded me of the last scene of “Three Days of the Condor”. In “Spartan”, nothing is ever as it seems yet you never feel jerked around, nothing ever feels genuine, yet it’s never artificial, and everything is sleek without feeling like a McG film. Mamet knows what he has and uses it well as a very effective and entertaining action spy film that’s both story and shoot outs. This is probably what Colin Farrell’s ridiculous “The Recruit” was trying to be, this is what it should have been. Only Mamet of all people can take something with the potential to be really idiotic and turn it in to one hell of a great time.

And as always in Mamet’s world, the heroes never win, and the villains always succeed. What realism he strives in. A covert operations team has been called in to investigate the sudden disappearance of the president’s daughter. The problem is, the disappearance, which they assume are the actions of a rebellious girl, turns into a bonafide kidnapping, and before the world can be told she’s been kidnapped, they have to get to her and get her back, or else they lose. The problem is, something just isn’t right, and agent Scott is beginning to realize what is happening. What’s so peculiar about “Spartan” is that Mamet invites us to watch this story, yet keeps us at a comfortable distance by dragging us into the middle of a situation. The characters all speak to each other in their own lingo, speak with their own inside jokes, and involves us as we attempt to discover what they’re conversing about.

As always, Mamet’s dialogue shoots at us at a rapid fire pace, and the cast handles it well. Val Kilmer is an actor who particularly handles his performance like a pro. He gives a very good performance and makes his character worth rooting for. During the film you can clearly see why Kilmer is the lead, and it’s because of his ability to take the hero and make him unique. His quest to find the president’s daughter beyond everything else really does make this a worthy viewing experience. I wouldn’t be able to finish this off without mentioning the very well done performance by Kristen Bell who plays the president’s daughter Laura.

Bell’s always been a strong actress, even before “Veronica Mars”, and she steals the second half with her performance. “Spartan” begins on a high note, and ends on a low note, and that’s what really pulled me into it. Mamet’s storytelling abilities are practically flawless, and “Spartan” is a very entertaining thriller. I’m angered at myself that I held off on “Spartan” for such a long time, but I learned my lesson in the end. Mamet’s spy thriller is a surefire cure for boredom as it evolves from a procedural to a tense thriller with great performances by Macy, Kilmer, Bell and Luke. And then there’s Mamet’s writing, which is just top notch.