Director and co-writer Rodrigo Sorogoyen’s latest film opens with a tracking shot of party vice secretary Manuel López Vidal (Antonio de la Torre, ‘Marshland’, ‘I'm So Excited!’) as he finishes up a phone conversation on a beach, and strides down an alleyway. Electronic music pulses in the background as he bursts into the kitchen of a beachside restaurant, picks up a tray of red shrimp, and brings it to a table for his fellow senior politicians to gorge upon.
‘The Realm’ immediately picks up the viewer and tosses them into the quick thinking, fast talking environment in which López Vidal lives his everyday life. Professional and assured in how he conducts his business; he seems to be a Great White Shark swimming in the murky ocean of Spanish politics.
The following day, a corruption scandal erupts in the region and López Vidal takes the rap, with the party choosing to wipe their hands and distance themselves from his presence. However, his forward momentum hardly pauses as he takes matters into his own hands to clear his name. The film swiftly switches gear into a relentless political thriller and throws up a few questions: whose interests is López Vidal really serving? His own, the party or the people? Who is the ultimate villain in this equation? Is the swiftness with which he moves preventing him from any self-reflection or feelings of guilt?
There is a propulsive rhythm to ‘The Realm’, with conspiracy, corruption and scandal being just a few of the enduring themes, along with a light sprinkling of car chases. A highlight occurs when López Vidal uses his politician’s bluster (like an oilier Malcolm Tucker from ‘The Thick of It’) to enter a house full of much taller, younger men, to steal an incriminating laptop and escape.
Manuel is conceived as a “non-stop” character and de la Torre plays him as tightly-controlled as the expensive, form-fitting suit that he wears. His mannerisms, paired with a tension-building soundtrack, combine for a riveting viewing experience.
The script is very well crafted by writers Sorogoyen and Isabel Pena, engaging the audience in a structured story with a balance of exposition and character work that carries the plot and keeps the audiences head above water. Manuel is conceived as a “non-stop” character and de la Torre plays him as tightly-controlled as the expensive, form-fitting suit on his compact frame. His mannerisms, paired with a tension-building soundtrack, combine for a riveting experience. Think George Clooney’s ‘The Ides of March’ meets Doug Liman’s ‘Go’.
Political thrillers can be dark, mysterious, mentally testing and sometimes completely fail to engage in any form of activity conducted above an idling tempo. This is certainly not the case for ‘The Realm’. López Vidal pacing the corridors of power as he desperately tries to negotiate his survival is compulsive viewing.