The Spanish Prisoner Review

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Seeking a bomus for a process that he has developed that could make his companies fortune, Joe fears he will be conned. He enlists the help of new friend to get his own back on his boss only to discover that his friend is not all he seems. A story of intrigue and counter intrique.


David Mamet has really stumped us this time. This, his fifth film as writer-director, is his most mainstream work to date, but it also happens to be his cleverest, craftiest and most conniving. In fact, The Spanish Prisoner is so smartarse the only way to fully appreciate this film is to watch it with an open mind. Simply because the more you know about the plot beforehand the less impressed you will be with the outcome.

As you would expect with Mamet, the entire movie is a huge confidence trick. Without spoiling things, company man Joe Ross (Scott) has invented a "Process", a secret formula which could make him an extremely wealthy man. He is eager to sell this "Process" but a chance meeting with jet-setter Jimmy Dell (Martin, expertly cast against type) and the charms of his infatuated secretary Susan (Pidgeon) make him doubt the intentions of his colleagues. Mamet being Mamet, we never actually get to see the "Process" even though the entire movie hangs on its existence. Obviously, somebody gets caught with their pants down but to say who will spoil a movie that comes dangerously close to brilliance.

Everybody is on the make, of course, pulling confidence tricks left, right and centre - but the greatest of all tricks is pulled by Mamet himself. The title, a reference to the world's oldest confidence bluff, is as much aimed at Scott's everyman character as at the gullibility of the audience. And being a complete hoodwink, the movie can only be savoured once. Otherwise loopholes will be found in the sharp script and sly direction. Don't talk to anyone who knows the twist, steer clear of any more reviews. Just sit back and let the movie take you for a ride.

Enjoy all the twists and turns and don't cheat by reading the last page first…