The duck house-related indiscretions of our MPs look positively quaint compared to the mammoth corruption in Rodrigo Sorogoyen’s breakneck, brilliantly acted political thriller. Set in 2007 and inspired by real-life corruption scandals in Spain, it follows a Spanish politician’s struggles after a whistleblower catches him with his metaphorical pants down.
Manuel (played with sweaty intensity by Antonio de la Torre) is implicated in siphoning off EU agricultural subsidies and realises that the only way to save himself is to expose the vast network of corruption that extends across political parties, business and the media. Sorogoyen uses choppy footage – mirroring the covert iPhone videos that help bring Manuel down – to expose the corrupt glamour of this world; one of yachts, flashy cars and half-built mansions. It’s the hectic peak of Spain’s property -fuelled boom, which crumbled in the scandal-wracked years that followed.
These conspirators work feverishly fast. At first, their machinations and flamboyantly crude rants are hard to follow. But as the focus tightens on Manuel, the film gains power. Its intimate, naturalistic scenes show that, for these (mostly) men, corruption is a way of life. Manuel is a kind of everyman, steadfast in his belief that he’s no worse than anyone else. And, terrifyingly, he might be right. Sorogoyen doesn’t pin his story to a particular party: the emotional detail is specific, but the themes are universal.