It doesn’t come up very often outside of the country but Spain has been and, probably still is, riddled with corruption. Corruption that’s variously infected local and national governments even into the royal family. A series of scandals that may well have been the inspiration for The Candidate (previously called The Realm which is a direct translation if not correct interpretation of El Reino the Spanish title).

A scalpel sharp script by Isabel Peña and Rodrigo Sorogoyen who directed the film follows Manuel López Vidal (Antonio de la Torre), a smart-mouthed cocky local politician enjoying the high-life and the largesse of certain benefactors, his personal ambitions however lay way beyond the local community.

He’s the fulcrum of a circle of friends and acquaintances who’ve all done very well as we see them noisily toasting themselves at an expensive restaurant – in a sublime introduction that has the camera almost perched on Manuel’s shoulder as walks from the street, through the kitchen to the meal - and partying on yachts.

But a leak leaves him exposed and asked to take the hit for the party at the behest of its leaders who have charged in from Madrid on a damage limitation exercise. Not a man to give up Manuel starts to plot dragging his old colleagues and others, playing them. As it becomes more complex and more issues thrust into the plot so Manuel becomes ever more desperate taking things just that little bit further each time right up to the denouement in a TV studio.

It’s a tour de force performance from de la Torre. He’s in almost every scene doing to what he can to outmanoeuvre those arrayed against him. He portrays a man virtually at the top of his game, dramatically pulled up, then pushing himself going to ever greater lengths and levels of personal and professional destruction, with ever changing motives that even right up to the end are not that clear. Are they entirely self-serving or possibly altruistic?

The rest of the cast are magnificent too as they plot, conspire and talk (there’s a lot of talking) themselves in and out of situations. These are hyper sequences that are tempered by the conversations between Manuel and his family, as that starts to crumble around him too.

On a technical level Sorogoyen with the superb camera work from Alejandro de Pablo directs a taught thriller that never sags in pace even as the plot gets denser and the characters develop. At times with the camera tracking Manuel the viewer could almost have the perspective of a first-person shooter computer game, driving us head-long into the situations. More than a word too about the soundtrack by Olivier Arson which is by turns flowing electro pulses which tighten the tension to holding full sway over the scene when required.