The President of the United State’s daughter has been kidnapped, and only one man can bring her back alive: Special Ops officer Robert Scott (Val Kilmer), whose background and uncompromising attitude make him just as dangerous as his prey. Working against the clock to keep the story from the press, Scott has just forty-eight hours to find the girl or lose her forever.

Nothing is what it seems in “Spartan,” another smartly written and executed mind game from director David Mamet, a cinematic Three Card Monty dealer who enjoys taking his audiences for a ride. Even though “Spartan” plays out on a much larger canvas than most Mamet films, it’s still an intimate, character-driven drama.

Mamet is one of my favorite writers and directors. He doesn’t write for nor cares about mainstream audiences unwilling to invest in his crafty, twisted plots and multi-layered characters. To fully appreciate a Mamet film you have to give as much as you take.

I am thankful to a writer who doesn’t cater to the lowest common denominator, and a director who gives the audience credit for having a brain. Mamet asks more questions than he answers in “Spartan,” but it’s not because he doesn’t have the answers. He just feels they’re unnecessary.

Some would consider this cheating, but what Mamet actually accomplishes is a shorthand that benefits the characters more than the audience. I admire a filmmaker who isn’t afraid to drop us off in the middle of a story. We’re forced to take everything at face value, allowing director to mold and shape our journey at his whim. This ambiguity may prove unsettling to some, but is necessary to keep us on our toes.

Kilmer is commanding as a man willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done. His sense of loyalty is matched by the look of determination in his eyes. Mamet doesn’t waste time introducing and dissecting characters. He throws them (and us by proxy) into the lion’s den without hesitation. His characters have to think on their feet, and Kilmer makes us believe that Robert Scott is never caught off guard.

“Spartan” isn’t your conventional political thriller. It ventures off into uncharted territory, not just for the genre, but for Mamet. With each uncovered clue, Scott finds himself involved in white slave trade, murder, betrayal and deception. Just when we think we’ve got everything figured out, Mamet pulls the rug out from underneath us.

Playing Those Mind GamesDeception and betrayal spin “Spartan”


Val Kilmer, Derek Luke, William H. Macy, Ed O’Neill, Kristen Bell. Directed by David Mamet. Rated R. 106 Minutes.


Comments are closed.