Robert Scott is a career military officer working in a highly secretive special operations force. A man hardened by years of brutal service, he is respected by his peers and elders in the world of espionage. When Scott is recruited to find Laura Newton, the daughter of a high-ranking government official, he is paired with novice Curtis, who becomes his protÃ©gÃ©. Working with a special task force comprised of Presidential Advisors, the Secret Service, FBI and CIA, Scott and Derek stumble upon a white slavery ring, which may have some connection to Laura's disappearance. As the story unfolds, the straightforward search-and-rescue mission becomes complicated by the political ambitions of those in high places--like Stoddard, a political operative who may know more than he's telling about the clandestine circumstances surrounding Laura's abduction. Scott and Curtis are at the brink of tracking Laura's whereabouts when the mission comes to an abrupt conclusion, with the media issuing reports of the girl's death. Scott returns to the quiet life of landowner in a rural location and awaits his next assignment in relative peace. But Curtis can't rest. In his naivetÃ©, he seeks out Scott to confide his belief that Laura is in fact alive. If she is, their continued unofficial investigation will put them as well as Laura at the center of a dangerous conspiracy that reaches the highest levels.
David Mamet may not be a great filmmaker, but with this moody political thriller he proves himself, once again, to be a thrillingly competent one. His tightly coiled plot and swift, economical direction shows up the bloat and incoherence that afflict most Hollywood suspense pictures these days, and the many little touches of Mametude — jagged one-liners, swaggering repartee, William H. Macy — make it unusually flavorful. Val Kilmer, his sorrowful cool nicely suited to the fiercely stylized acting Mr. Mamet requires, plays a secret agent who must rescue the kidnapped daughter of a prominent politician. The plot's twists and turns ultimately lead nowhere very interesting, but for much of its running time the picture hums along beautifully, fueled by a potent mix of technical assurance and professional braggadocio. — A. O. Scott
2004-03-12 | A. O. Scott | Read the New York Times Review of Spartan