THE LIFE OF DAVID GALE: Starring Kevin Spacey, Kate Winslet, Laura Linney. Director: Alan Parker

Death row drama as two of Hollywood’s top character thesps emote over the Big Issue of capital punishment.

David Gale (double Oscar winner Spacey), a popular professor, family man and anti-captial punishment activist, is convicted of murder and, in an ironic twist, sentenced to death by the electric chair.

Three days before he becomes a dead man walking, he grants an interview with tough reporter Bitsey Bloom (Winslet), who realises that Gale may be an innocent man.

But with only 72 hours before his execution, she’s up against a very real deadline. And the more she uncovers, the more the plot twists round on itself.

There are top drawer performances from the two leads in this suspenseful thriller, which explores the thorny concepts of capital punishment without softening the message or losing the tautness of the drama.

EQUILIBRIUM: Starring Christain Bale, Emily Watson, Taye Diggs, Sean Pertwee. Director: Kurt Wimmer.

A film with big ambitions, Equilibrium looks to splice thought provoking sci-fi with kick-butt action, but ultimately it’s a marriage of inconvenience.

Ever since The Matrix raised the bar for stylised fight scene special effects, everyone else has been rushing to catch up, and now no action adventure worth its salt would dream of hitting the big-screen without ‘bullet time’ slo-mo effects and plenty of high wire martial arts.

Which is all very nice to look at, and Equilibrium stages some great set-pieces. But after a while, the balletic twirls of guns and kicks become a little repetitive, and you long for some story to back up the action. And this is where the film falls down: there’s plenty of style but not enough substance.

Which is a shame, as the potential is there. Set in the future nation of Libria, emotions are banned. If you are happy, you will be arrested. If you cry, the law will hunt you down. Art, music, books – anything that could stimulate sensations are outlawed. The populus even dress in muted pastal shades and are kept quiet through regular doses of emotion-suppressing drug Prozium.

Those who dare to engage in a spot of illicit painting-viewing or would read a contraband book are hunted down by the Clerics, officers who enforce the law with martial arts and stylish costumes, cracking down on these ‘sense offenders’ and making sure emotions are kept under lock and key in the interest of keeping the peace.

Christian Bale is John Preston, one of the elite special police who has done so much to uphold the system. Until he questions his belief, skips his own dose of Prozium, enjoys a host of sensations and opts to fight for freedom.

It would be unfair to dismiss Equilibrium as just a poor man’s Logan’s Run with flashier fight scenes, and Bale gives a good turn as the tightly-buttoned, highly-trained Cleric . All in all, it’s not bad, but not as good as it thinks it is; a sheep in Matrix wolf’s clothing.

Mark Miseldine