Spartan (Mamet, 2004)

The haunting coldness of a Michael Mann picture inspires and defines much of Spartan and its host of professionals. David Mamet’s political powder keg of a thriller reverberates Mann’s sense of space and pacing, where deadly men and women work seamlessly within a dangerous and inclusive world, inevitably pushed to the brink by a realization of false ideologies. But Spartan also displays Mamet’s own brilliant interpretation of language, which is often incomplete, stirring, and forcefully blunt. His characters, led by Val Kilmer’s special operations “fixer” and Derek Luke’s young recruit, speak a foreign tongue of in-phrases and codes, taking English to an alien level. And Mamet doesn’t give us the subtitles.

Spartan has mesmerizing dialogue scenes complimented by surprising bursts of perfectly staged violence, moments which cut deep through the characters’ sense of purpose and loyalty. The betrayal which lies at the heart of Spartan speaks to an overarching distrust American’s feel for political authority and accountability. And Mamet lays on a thick layer of deceit for his hero’s to overcome, forcing Kilmer and company to re-imagine their views of the country which gave them birth, Spartan’s without a home.

In the end, Spartan shows the grave misgivings of a country consumed by untruths, both small and great. In Mamet’s eyes, they all add up to the same sort of treasonous point of view which has become the status quo for many figures of power. Even bringing “the girl home” doesn’t solve the corruption of our government. It only complicates the idea of home even more.


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