He makes a crook-turned-whistleblower flawed and human. It starts by introducing an enigmatic assemblage of shadowy politicians noshing and joshing together in a Spanish seaside restaurant. Director Rodrigo Sorogoyen, whose last feature May God Save Us earned positive reviews, finds a cinematic correlative to the growing sense of paranoia and panic in the jittering handheld camerawork and mosquito-like whine of the EDM soundtrack that grows incrementally more menacing.
There is a terrific scene of sustained tension, when Manuel and his ageing lawyer, Fernando Paco Revillabreak into a house party to retrieve some incriminating documents and are forced to negotiate a drink- and drug-fuelled party to achieve their goal.
There are lots of characters to know and political minutiae to understand, with no spoon-feeding. The Candidate is released in the UK on 2 August. That you wind up rooting for Manuel has much to do with the terrific Antonio de la Torre.
Gradually, party apparatchik Manuel the intensely watchable Antonio de la Torre, whose middle-aged features are carved with dimples and oddly angled worry lines emerges as the protagonist of an offbeat crime thriller seemingly set 10 or 15 years ago, when Blackberries were the upper-middle-class smartphone of choice and iPhones were just coming on to the market.
But once you get a handle on it, The Candidate becomes gripping. This is one of those rare films that starts as a slog but grows progressively more engrossing as it develops.
The contours of the corruption they have colluded in together become clearer as details leak out, although by the end some may still be wondering what exactly the bad things were that these guys did.
The outcome leads to a terrific final third including a night-time car chase with the headlights off and a fantastic showdown in a TV studio as Manuel tries to go public with his findings.