The Spanish Prisoner (1997)
Directed by David Mamet
Cast: Campbell Scott, Rebecca Pidgeon, Steve Martin, Felicity Huffman, Ben Gazzara, Ricky Jay, Ed O'Neill.
1997 110 minutes
Rated: (for brief violence).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, October 24, 1998.
David Mamet's "The Spanish Prisoner," is a puzzle of a film, one that starts off simply enough but begins to stack story development upon story development, and twist upon twist until we really actually have to be paying close attention to be able to follow everything. This is not a flaw with the film, though. It is a compliment, because "The Spanish Prisoner" is a thinking-person's film, and the complex story flows so effortlessly that it just goes to show how brilliant Mamet is as a writer.
The film begins as a man (Campbell Scott), on a business trip in the Cayman Islands with his colleagues, proposes "The Process," a highly secretive plan that will make his company very wealthy. While there, he meets a friendly businessman (Steve Martin), whom he begins to have doubts about after he returns to his home in New York City. But what is he hiding, if anything?
The delight in watching "The Spanish Prisoner," doesn't so much have to do with the intricate plot, but more about the sly, entertaining interactions that the characters have with each other, thanks to the exquisite dialogue, which is nothing short of flawless. I could listen to these people talking all day, and never get bored.
Because of the dialogue, most of the main stars are given particularly juicy roles. I can't recall Campbell Scott having this good of a role before, and it is a refreshing change of pace for Steve Martin, who is usually featured in comedies. Rebecca Pidgeon, as one of Scott's colleagues and a potential love interest, is a standout. She is given the most likable character, but also some of the best lines, and she has a natural charm about her. I definately look forward to seeing her in future films.
"The Spanish Prisoner," never particularly steps wrong, but, without giving its many secrets away, a negative development with one of the characters was a disappointment, and I truthfully felt kind of betrayed. But of course, it was followed with one of the films best lines that I wouldn't dream of spoiling.
David Mamet doesn't direct that many films, but he is so distinguished as a screenwriter that if you are familiar with his work, you would certainly be able to recognize his signature dialogue. He is a class-act talent that is incomparable.
© 1998 by Dustin Putman