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  • Spartan
    • Spartan
    • Runtime:106 min
    • Release Date:2017-01-18 19:09:34
    • Director: David Mamet
    • Genres: Action, Crime, Drama, Mystery, Thriller
    • Studio:


David Mamet is running out of gas and seems a bit desperate here.

Successful long form cinema requires more than the exploitation of one
skill, especially when it is word-oriented.

His approach to narrative starts with the words. He does not define
characters per se, but urges and only if those urges emerge for word
clusters. So he is all about rhythm, association, patter. His last few
projects approached the power of words by themselves from different

Here he relies on the notion that military types — at least in movies —
have a clipped cadence that is unique and exploitable. I admit that I
find it engaging just because of the novelty of the thing. But then,
looking at how Lincoln is distended on squashed pennies is interesting
in the same way. In the past — in his early plays — you could enjoy how
these things took on lives of their own, sometimes adopting and driving
characters, sometimes situations and they engaged. But that was because
they were raw, intuitively found in the conceptswamps at the edge of
safe imagination.

But as he has become more successful, he lost his ability to risk and
his approach became commoditized. The patter here is established early
in the movie, in scenes that have nothing to do with the story. He
justifies it by introducing characters that matter later, but that is
all superfluous.

This is a mess, a waste. There is one scene that grabbed me though and
I wish most films had a device this powerful. An agent was seeking the
return of a kidnapped woman, the daughter of the President. He is
pulled off the case, but has found something troubling. By an unlikely
coincidence he encounters another agent who at first thinks him to be
an invader. What happens next is an amazing shift, a pleasing one that
drives the narrative for another few, dead episodes.

Ted's Evaluation — 2 of 3: Has some interesting elements.


Prior to reading Inside Delta Force (by Eric L Haney) I would have
viewed this as just another super spy movie that was entertaining. Now,
knowing how much of the trade-craft featured is true and accurate,
brings the story to a whole different level. Although the storyline
premise is a bit out there, I found the path that Val Kilmer's
character takes to be mesmerizing. Having to shift from "just following
orders" to thinking for himself becomes a conflict for the character.
In the end, doing what is right despite the cost. Drawing on the true
character that draws men like this to this type of work in the first

On a side note, for those that are fans of Mamets TV show The Unit
(also based on Haney's book). Check out how many actors from this film
crossed over to play guest roles on the show. Bill Macy, Ed O'Neil,
about 3 or 4 others.


Mamet's back again with his deceptive sleights of hand, rushing poor
Val Kilmer from one precarious situation to the next as if trying to
outdo "24".

But breathless pace, self-indulgently clever (or rather not so clever)
dialogue and plenty of mechanical twists and turns can't hide the fact
that this flat and unconvincing charade never generates a shred of
emotional or intellectual resonance.

Watch those great 70s conspiracy thrillers instead. They were gripping
and smart without being sophomoric.

3 out of 10 mean Al Bundys


I've been a fan of David Mamet since The Untouchables, and a half a
dozen films since, including Glengarry Glen Ross and Ronin. His writing
is so exacting – it's surgical. And among the best in the Industry. It
seems no writer in film exemplifies the dominant (lone) male psyche
better than he does – he is one of my favorite writers. I say lone
because most of the leads in his films are either solo, or if married
you don't know it. Even in The Winslow Boy, which was a period piece.
In his films, the Dialog is definitely the star. Realizing that is key
to enjoying his films.

As a Deep Sea Diver in the U.S. Navy for many years, who spent time
with the Special Boat Unit and 5 years with EOD (the bomb squad), I can
tell you that he speaks the language of the military elite, and the
military at large – better than anyone. In his film Spartan, we have
the perfect marriage of the nuances subtleties and atmosphere of the
shadowy world where special ops are used as federal assets for
unofficial or non military missions. I believe Spartan is as close to
capturing this as movie making ever comes.

Val Kilmer is a much better actor than many of his more famous
contemporaries, and is probably the performer they wished they were.
Though he's never really gained the notoriety or superstar status. I
think most guys would agree that his Doc Holliday in Tombstone was the
best ever, with due applause to Dennis Quaid's. He played a Marine
Gunny (Gunnery Sergeant) assigned to special ops (probably after Recon)
and was the perfect fit for both this film and Mamet's script, which
combined with his talent – was one of his best. Tom Clancy is the only
other modern writer of this caliber that captures the military mindset
and does it so well, but in a different way. Though the title probably
refers to the Spartan ideology of one well trained man being better
than a hundred who are not, there is a picture here offered of the very
Spartan lifestyle lived by so many in the military of any nation and is
well represented. A great film! I couldn't recommend it more.


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