The Realm – Candidate (El reino): A subtitled film from Spain with mainstream appeal.
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. That 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 involve 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 leak and the party leaders decide that to make a suppose. That clean-up look good somebody must be sacrifice 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 uncover. 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. That 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 uncover.
This final episode does not play out as Manuel expects and the film is all the stronger for it. Spaniards with detail knowledge of their real-life politicians may see The Candidate. That 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.
Political thrillers can be dark, mysterious, mentally testing and sometimes completely fail to engage in any form of activity conduct above an idling tempo.
This is certainly not the case for Rodrigo Sorogoyen’s The Realm, the latest diplomatic pulse-raiser export from Spain to set nerves on edge at London Film Festival. Featuring in this year’s “Thrill” category, it is very easy to see why, with conspiracy, corruption and scandal being just a few of the enduring themes thread throughout the duration of the picture. Along with a light sprinkling of car chases for good measure.
From the opening sequence, it becomes evident what sort of exercise in political filmmaking this feature is going to be. That throwing the audience immediately into the fast-pace environment. That in which Spanish protagonist Manuel Lopez-Vidal (Antonio de la Torre) lives and breathes his everyday life. He seems professional, assure in how he conducts his business, confident that he is the master of the dog-eat-dog world of politics.
But there is a sickness in the party slowly being unearth by the media that could put his status and those around him at risk should it be discover. With the party choosing to wipe their hands and distance themselves from his presence. Manuel takes matters into his own hands to clear his name. But the real questions are in whose interests is he really working, and who is the real villain in this equation?
Unmistakeably a proud Spanish production, writers Sorogoyen and Isabel Pena take the opportunity
That to invoke a very real message behind the context of the film, something truthfully address. That in the closing minutes of the movie with consequential resonance. The script is very well craft for its genre, engaging the audience in a structure story. That with a balance of dialogue and action that carries the plot with an enticing fluidity.
This is no less thanks to the endearing performance given by de la Torre as the focal character place in such a dire predicament, who could very well be a persuasive real-life spin doctor or politician if he ever wish for a career change. His mannerisms, pair with a tension-building soundtrack that goes hand in hand with the pacing of the script, complete a commanding combination for a riveting political thriller.
Genre: Art House & International, Mystery & Suspense
Directed By: Rodrigo Sorogoyen
Stars: Antonio de la Torre, Mónica López, Josep Maria Pou
Written By: Rodrigo Sorogoyen, Isabel Peña
Runtime: 122 minutes
Studio: Tornasol Films
CRITIC REVIEWS FOR THE CANDIDATE (THE REALM) (EL REINO)
This is one of those rare films that starts as a slog but grows progressively more engrossing as it develops.
The script, by the director and his regular collaborator Isabel Pena, makes no concessions when it comes to the complexities of the storyline… You do have to keep your wits about you, but that’s part of the fun.
Acclaim should carry it far among those craving intrigue, suspense and muckraking social commentary.
Part thriller, part moral skewering and sadly part realistic portrayal, Kingdom is guided by a terrific performance from the reliable Antonio de la Torre at the center of some fine ensemble work.