Warner Home Video
Date: June 15, 2004
Review posted: June 10, 2004
When Robert Scott
(Val Kilmer) is recruited to find Laura, the
a government official, he is paired with novice Curtis (Derek Luke).
Scott and Curtis stumble upon a white slavery ring, which may have some
connection to Laura's disappearance. But during the course of
their investigation, they encounter unexpected obstacles that
their lives. Directed by David Mamet, Spartan co-stars
Kristen Bell and William H. Macy.
This line is uttered
repeatedly by at least three different characters in David Mamet's
latest thriller, Spartan. This is a cool and highly
suspenseful film for several good reasons. Mamet's script jumps
right into action after a small character set-up with Kilmer's
Scott at a remote military training facility by the woods. Scott
is then called upon a highly secretive operation to find a missing
girl (Laura), and what makes the first fifty minutes of this film
so exciting and suspenseful is watching where his and Curtis'
investigation leads to.
Mamet moves the
story along rather fast but never gives away too much information.
He doesn't bother telling the audience who every character is and
what their jobs are. He simply lays out a basic story and lets his
central character work out the details. In that sense, Mamet pulls
off great suspense. Some viewers might not get pulled into the
story as quickly as I, but that's okay.
Spartan would be nothing without a great set of characters.
There aren't a lot of them, but that's just fine. Mamet puts the
focus almost entirely on Scott and his determination to finish the
job, but the film's second half takes a deep and dark turn that I
didn't expect. At that point I became very immersed in the story
and suspense. A tiny weakness occurs during this shift, however.
Some of the early scenes in the second half are a bit slow and
confuse a little. But rest assured, the pace picks up again after
only a short while.
Another reason why
Spartan works is Val Kilmer's great performance. The actor
displays a tough attitude and delivers his lines with intense
sincerity. I like how he handles the scene with his character
confronting a man inside a house, but he's even better playing a
bad guy to get the attention of a prisoner who has information
that could help advance the investigation into Laura's
disappearance. The supporting cast is also very good, consisting
of a strong Derek Luke, a cameo-like appearance by Ed O'Neill, and
an ominous turn from William H. Macy. Two surprising performances
come from Tia Texada, a military officer who helps Scott late in
the investigation, and Kristen Bell, who plays Laura.
I also liked other
things about the film, such as Mark Isham's jazzy and somewhat
ominous score. It adds greatly to the suspense as well, though
it's too bad the soundtrack isn't available for purchase,
otherwise I would think about getting it. Cinematography by Juan
Ruiz Anchia is also very good, especially how he shoots the more
"exciting" or action-oriented portions of the story, and Editor
Barbara Tulliver makes scene transitions work perfectly.
more intense, thrilling, and smooth than Mamet's Heist, a
thriller with Gene Hackman. Why, because Spartan moves at a
faster pace, tells an exciting story, and centers on one man's
duty to complete his mission at all costs.
Warner Bros. presents
Spartan in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. The film's color
palette is bright and crisp, a great combination of blue hues
and white. Colors are well-saturated. Sharpness and detail are
fine, but not totally accurate. The print image looks good, but specks and
spots show up frequently. Black levels and dark tones are deep, but
not perfect. I didn't notice any compression artifacts. Overall,
a pretty nice presentation where the colors add great atmosphere
and depth to the film. However, I think Warner has produced
better transfers of recent films.
include English, French, and Spanish.
"My watch says 2004, Derek. There shouldn't be a poster of
Solider on that wall." - "Doesn't make much sense, like the
movie." - "Indeed."
Warner Bros. presents
Spartan in English 5.1 Dolby Surround Sound. A good
presentation overall, with clear and noise-free audio coming
from the front speakers. Channel separation is quite good, and
the dialogue is easy to understand. The surrounds are active
mainly during Mark Isham's brisk and jazzy score, but also
during several scenes that produce great sound effects. One
scene is particularly startling, but I won't spoil it. Needless
to say, it'll give you a good jump.
The only extra, besides the film's spoiler-y theatrical
trailer, is a commentary by Val Kilmer. He discusses
his character and preparation for the role, the film's story,
David Mamet, the shooting process, and
recalls stories (such as The Spartan Times, a weekly newsletter
distributed on the set) relating to the production and his
experiences. He also mentions his interests, such as espionage,
talks about the co-stars, and goes off on tangents a few times.
It's a pretty low-key track for most of the duration, and many
gaps of silence are present. It remains a decent track
nonetheless, but I think it ultimately depends on what you think
of the film. If only Mamet or one of the co-stars could've
joined Kilmer on the track, I think two people talking about a
film is usually more energetic. It could've been exciting to
have Mamet and Kilmer interview each other, but alas, Kilmer's
solo act is a decent addition to the DVD.
"Yes, we'll be showing Spartan exclusively on this
affluent island. It is among the film's 832 total screens. And
yes, we're expecting a large audience for this area. Ed O'Neill
is quite popular there right now."
109-minute feature is organized into twenty-eight chapters. The
DVD arrives in a keepcase (hooray!) but no insert is available.
theatrically on March 12 with hardly any promotion, Spartan grossed
a meager $4.3 million on 832
screens. That's too bad because David Mamet has crafted an
exciting and suspenseful thriller with an awesome performance by Val
Kilmer. After only three months, Warner Bros. is putting the film out
on DVD. I'm cool with that, because this film deserves your attention,
and hopefully it will get a second chance on home video.
quality is pretty good. The
commentary track is a good addition. Kilmer mentions deleted material,
but it doesn't show here, which disappoints. Finally, the DVD cover
art changed just a tiny bit from the clever theatrical poster. The
new image of Kilmer doesn't look as smooth as the original, but
the cover art is still cool-looking. With that, Spartan comes highly recommended.
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