Politicians – can’t live with them, can’t vote them out of power if they’re a tyrant like Putin. We’ve reached a freaky point in history where the world of politics has almost taken on the status of a reality TV show. The unbelievable is now somehow the norm. You only need look at a couple of the world leaders and their Twitter feeds to realise that.
And although corruption within the political realm is something that is remarkably commonplace, to the extent that no one bats an eyelid when it’s exposed, Spanish director Rodrigo Sorogoyen’s latest at least injects some impressive drama into proceedings.
Manuel (Antonio de la Torre) is just one of a group of politicians who look after each other really rather well. They live in nice houses, meet each other for fancy lunches, and generally enjoy the good life, to the point where it feels that it couldn’t get better than this.
And then Manuel gets a tip-off from a journalist, that someone has dropped a dime and given them his name as someone who is highly corrupt.
He can’t deny it, but he feels it’s something he can contain, with the help of his friends. What he quickly discovers however, is that when you’re up against it, you quickly find out who your real friends are, and Manuel is gutted to learn that he has far fewer than he realised.
It’s exceptionally difficult to empathise with politicians, particularly given the current crazy climate, but somehow Sorogoyen manages just that with his protagonist. Manuel is clearly corrupt, and doesn’t even bother wasting anyone’s time in disputing that fact, but Sorogoyen cleverly surrounds him with characters far worse than he. In doing so, he almost makes him come across as heroic by the end of the film.
One of the devices he uses to achieve this is a simple one: he presents the story from Manuel’s point of view only. This means that there are no cutaway scenes of police officials stating how bad he is, or judges stating he must be stopped and brought to justice.
Instead, Manuel’s world slowly shrinks as the film develops, until he his completely on his own and finds himself in a surprisingly vulnerable state.
Because the focus is on Manuel throughout, Torre is hardly off screen. Thankfully his performance just gets stronger and more riveting as the film goes on, as we slowly witness what at first appears to be an untouchable, chipped away to reveal a relatable human after all, which let’s face it, is almost unthinkable to believe regarding any politician.
Sorogoyen’s direction is smart and surprisingly pacy, resulting in a film that’s terrifically tense and absorbing. It won’t make you rethink how you feel about politicians – it can’t perform miracles – but it does offer a huge vote of confidence in its talented director and leading man.