The Candidate

 

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A subtitled film from Spain with mainstream appeal.

 

Candidate, The

Antonio de la Torre

 

Rodrigo Sorogoyen's film, originally known as The Realm, may play differently on home ground in Spain but here, despite having rather less action and more talk than is usual, it comes over as a genre piece, a thriller about corruption. As such, it works well driven by Sorogoyen's chosen approach to the material that he himself co-wrote with Isabel Peña. This movie is fluent and fast, bowling along in a way which does not take much care to define characters and plot details clearly. Often that can be a fatal mistake, but not here. All you need to know is that the central character, Manuel López-Vidal played by Antonio de la Torre with pivotal authority, is a crooked politician taken by surprise when he becomes a scapegoat.

 

When we meet Manuel, he is serving under a regional president, Frías (José Maria Pou), as vice-secretary and, since he looks set to be Frías's successor and happens to know that his boss is dying of cancer, his prospects look good. For some fifteen years he and most of his colleagues have been involved in money laundering and tax fraud but this is par for the course in this part of the world and should not hold him back. But it does when a tape is leaked and the party leaders decide that to make a supposed clean-up look good somebody must be sacrificed and select Manuel for that role.

 

The Candidate hurries along and at the same time sustains a running length of over two hours. The first half turns on Manuel's gradual realisation of his situation and that is what carries the film without our needing to know too precisely the party members surrounding him or the exact details of the criminal behaviour uncovered. Given the amount of talk, it is acceptable enough that Olivier Arson's music score should build up the adrenaline and Antonio de la Torre holds the screen with confidence as Manuel (there is also a good contribution from Ana Wagener as a formidable woman with a key role in the party).

 

To its advantage, The Candidate opts to change gear for its last half hour or so by offering three set pieces. First there's a suspenseful sequence in Andorra as Manuel in revengeful mood seeks crucial evidence against other party members. A dangerous night drive follows this and then the film delivers powerfully with a climactic scene in which Manuel turns to a journalist (Bárbara Lennie) in order to expose on television the full scandal he has uncovered. This final episode does not play out as Manuel expects and the film is all the stronger for it. Spaniards with detailed knowledge of their real-life politicians may see The Candidate as akin to the work of a whistle blower in its indictment of widespread corruption. For the rest of us, however, while it may encourage our distrust of politicians generally, Sorogoyen's movie is first and foremost a lively entertainment and, as such, it's highly adroit rather than anything deeper.

 

Original title: El reino.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Cast: Antonio de la Torre, José Maria Pou, Mónica López, Bárbara Lennie, Ana Wagener, Luis Zahera, Nacho Fresneda, Francisco Reyes, Maria de Nati, David Lorente, Andrés Lima, Paco Revilla, Óscar de la Fuente.

 

Dir Rodrigo Sorogoyen, Pro Makel Lejarza, Screenplay Isabel Peña and Rodrigo Sorogoyen, Ph Alex de Pablo, Art Dir Miguel Ángel Rebollo, Ed Alberto del Campo, Music Olivier Arson, Costumes Paola Torre.

 

Tornasol Films/Atresmedia Cine/Bowfinger International Pictures/ Le Pacte/ Canal+/Ciné+-Signature Entertainment.
132 mins. Spain/France. 2018. Rel: 2 August 2019. Cert. 15.