Review by Dustin Putman
3½ stars out of 4
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
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
"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.
Copyright © 1998 Dustin Putman