Year: 2004
Production Co: Art Linson Productions
Director: David Mamet
Producer: Art Linson
Writer: David Mamet
Cast: Val Kilmer, Derek Luke, William H Macy, Johhny Messner, Ed O'Neill
Spartan is serious in a way it seems only Mamet can manage while screenwriters the world (or at least America) over continually treat audiences like idiots, hammering every joke home with the subtlety of a jackhammer, leaving flashing neon arrows on top of every clue.

While not the most exciting or even original political thriller, Mamet treats his audience like adults who know how real life works. You don't know or expect what's going to happen most of the time. When a pivotal character gets his head blown off less than halfway through the film, it's a genuine shock in a way the directors of a thousand take-this-family-heirloom-and-give-it-to-my-girl-in-case-I-die scenes couldn't understand.

Val Kilmer is a crack secret agent/urban commando on his way out of the service when all hell breaks loose. The US president's daughter is kidnapped from college and a hastily assembled but frighteningly efficient team of secret service, FBI and officials figure they have two days until she's reported missing, the media blows it open and the girl is dead.

Piecing together the movement of the girl's last few hours by following her trail across Boston via a shady nightclub owner and a brothel madame, it soon becomes apparent the kidnappers have no idea who they've got - and that they'll kill her when they do rather than spark an international incident.

The trail leads from an isolated beach house across the world to the Middle East where the first daughter has apparently been sold into sex slavery as part of the traffic in blonde western women.

What's more interesting that the rescue mission thrills of the plot is the machinations of the political machinery behind the scenes we're given a glimpse into; how it works, what it wants - even why it kills.

Kilmer plays an understated and fairly colourless character, his only stand-out feature a chilling single-mindedness for the mission; he'll do anything... anything, to carry out orders. That fact alone gives you an inkling into how the story will end up, but by the mostly pedestrian final 15 minutes, Mamet will have shown you 90 minutes of brilliant dialogue and political tension even if it isn't the most cleverly constructed story.

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