THE SPANISH PRISONER

There is no way to review this movie without giving too much away. Be forewarned.

This is a big false step for David Mamet, not as a writer, which is how he made his name, but as a director. It's one of those movies that's so intricately plotted that the director must take special care to see that the humanity is not squeezed out of the characters. This didn't happen here, and the result is some of the most stilted dialogue you're ever likely to hear. This is not how real people speak, with perfect diction and enunciation. Most of the scenes feel sterile and artificial.

The plot machinery itself is driven by a huge improbability. The protagonist, Joe, has invented some revolutionary, and extremely valuable, process as a salaried employee of Mr. Klein's company. An elaborate con game is constructed for the purpose of separating Joe from his invention and then framing him for all sorts of crimes, including murder, presumably so that he won't be able to fight back and reclaim The Process. As it turns out, it's Klein himself who's behind the whole thing. Now Joe has an employment contract, but unless it's explicitly stated in the contract that any work done on company time belongs to him (and no company in its right mind would ever put that in an employment contract), the invention clearly belongs to Klein. Why would he go to such great lengths to steal something that he already owns? If against all odds the process does belong to Joe, how could it be stolen from him? He would have kept at least one copy of it in a safe place, yes? He would have patented it as well. None of this has been done. It appears that the only copy of this amazing process is handwritten in a red leather-bound book. This in itself seems almost medieval. It's not believable. There's hardly a believable moment in the whole picture.

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