The Candidate

Local politician Manuel López-Vidal (Antonio de la Torre) is on the rise, a happy family man and deeply corrupt. When he sees his party cohorts get arrested for siphoning, he fears his own misdemeanours, captured in a secret recording, will be made public and cause him to be the scapegoat for his party’s wrong-doings.

By | Posted 30 Jul 2019

The Candidate opens with a lick stolen from GoodFellas. Standing on a beach, regional politician Manuel López-Vidal (de la Torre) is on a mobile phone. As he purposefully sets off, almost driven by the electronic beats on the score, the camera follows him inside, through a working kitchen and into a busy restaurant where he sits down with a group of fellow under-handed politicians eating a slap-up lunch on the tax payers’ dime. Rodrigo Sorogoyen’s Spanish thriller subsequently takes its cue from the shot, pulling you into a shady world in urgent, exciting strokes.

Once you get a handle on it, The Candidate becomes gripping.

As the raucous lunch ends, Manuel’s party president Frías (Josep María Pou) joins him in the lavatory and tells him he is being fast-tracked as the new leader. Yet the political landscape is changing. New broom Rodrigo Alvarado (Francisco Reyes) is looking to clean up Madrid politics and soon arrests are being made for purloining EU subsidies and malfeasance. Manuel fears a secret taped conversation will go public and, quickly abandoned by his party and with former cronies looking to make him the fall guy, has to fight for both his political and literal survival, sending his family abroad and going to extreme lengths to stay ahead of the game.

Early doors, Sorogoyen and co-screenwriter Isabel Peña throw you into the deep end of the subterfuge. There are lots of characters to know and political minutiae to understand, with no spoon-feeding. But once you get a handle on it, The Candidate becomes gripping. It shares something of the mad panic of Morten Tyldum’s Headhunters, as an amoral hero has to keep his head while the shit comes thick and fast. There is a terrific scene of sustained tension, when Manuel and his ageing lawyer, Fernando (Paco Revilla), break into a house party to retrieve some incriminating documents and are forced to negotiate a drink- and drug-fuelled party to achieve their goal.

The outcome leads to a terrific final third including a night-time car chase with the headlights off and a fantastic showdown in a TV studio as Manuel tries to go public with his findings. That you wind up rooting for Manuel has much to do with the terrific Antonio de la Torre. He makes a crook-turned-whistleblower flawed and human.

Making a timely correlation between politics and crime, The Candidate is a bold, stylish thriller that barrels along at a fair lick and demands you keep up.