Film / The Life of David Gale

The Life of David Gale is a 2003 thriller starring Kevin Spacey as David Gale, a Texas death row inmate, former philosophy professor and anti-death penalty activist. Kate Winslet plays Bitsey Bloom, the reporter he requested to conduct an interview in the last week of his life, before his execution for the rape and murder of his friend, colleague, and fellow activist Constance Harraway (Laura Linney). About half of the film is a Flashback as Gale describes the events leading up to his conviction, starting with a rape accusation by one of his students (Rhona Mitra), and claims his innocence. With the help of her intern (Gabriel Mann), Bloom must figure out what really happened and whether David Gale should or could be saved.

This film provides examples of:

  • Acquitted Too Late: Gale's allies are trying to prevent this. At least, Bitsey Bloom is, but fails. His real plan is to cause this to happen as a political act to discourage the death penalty.
  • Clear Their Name: David Gale's intention with the interview. Zig-Zagged in the end; his and his compatriots' actual plan is for Bloom to fail to clear his name until after his execution.
  • Death Row
  • False Rape Accusation: One of the reasons David loses his job. It also makes him more plausible as a rapist and murderer later than otherwise he might be.
  • Follow the Leader: The plot is more than a little bit similar to an old Fritz Lang thriller called Beyond a Reasonable Doubt.
  • The Joy of X
  • Off the Record: Gale makes some comments during his interview that Bloom promises are off the record. Later, the final tape explaining the complete scheme to her is marked this way, implying that the knowledge may never reach the public.
  • Suicide, Not Murder: Linney's character, terminally ill, lets herself be killed as part of the plan.
  • Thanatos Gambit: A double, in fact.
  • You Know Who Said That: The film invokes Godwin's Law with this. The film revolves around a university teacher and political activist who is firmly against capital punishment. During a political debate, he baits his opponent like this:
    David Gale: So, basically, you feel, to choose another quote, 'society must be cleansed of elements which represent its own death.'
    Governor Hardin: Well, yes. I'd have to agree. Did I say that too?
    David Gale: No, that was Hitler.