I want to accuse David Mamet of something I'll call "deadpan directing". He's also the writer of everything he's directed, but that's a side issue. Material he's written elsewhere doesn't come off the same way - sure, there's a writing style, but those other films form more traditional narratives at the hands of other directors.
What he does is akin to the deadpan delivery of a joke: with no laughter or other physical cues, that joke has to stand on its own - we have to pay attention to know there's something funny going on. Mamet does the same thing in film. Most of what we see these days has a certain rise and fall to it, an ebb and flow of energy that tells us how we're supposed to feel. With Mamet's films, we have to make our own decisions, and most importantly, pay attention to everything that's going on, because, chances are, it's all going to mean something.
So what about The Spanish Prisoner? It certainly fits the Mamet mold. Hold still and develop the temperment to watch this, as it's worth getting past your narrative expectations and enjoy a different kind of storytelling. I won't even get into the plot on this one, and let it surprise you as best it can. I'll just say nobody's speaking Spanish here.
I do have one specific criticism about the ending, which draws comparisons in my mind to the end of Gun Shy, a much less lofty flick. Alas, by choosing not to share the plot, I have to leave that out as well. I'll just suggest watching both to find it - and while you're at it, consider how much Gun Shy would have improved if Mamet were behind the wheel.
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