SMOKE AND MIRRORS/MAN WITH A THOUSAND FACES (El hombre de las mil caras) [2016]

Originally posted on Cinema Axis.


As has been the case for a long time, money makes the world go around. The Man with Thousand Faces is a story about greed, corruption and consequences. One could label this a political thriller for lack of a better description.

Francisco “Paco” Paesa (Eduard Fernández) is working for the government in Spain in the mid-80s. His task was to locate the stronghold of the ETA, a terrorist group affecting Spain. His success in this endeavor put a target on his back. Forced to temporary leave the country, he discovered upon his return that all his assets had been seized.

When the 90’s arrived, Paco becomes heavily involved in the smuggling of money across the world, and former police chief Roldan (Carlos Santos), accused of embezzlement, wants this 1.5 million in cash to be safe. What follows is a labyrinth of a plot revolving around Paco, his associate and close friend Jesús Camoes (José Coronado), and Roldan and their attempts to keep the money in their own hands. Roldan’s paranoia fuels his mistrust of Paco, but he has no choice but to rely on him when finds himself confined to a safe house in Paris.

As the money, and Paco himself, moves around the world, the story gets further complicated. However, due to the clever use of narration by José Coronado, and some razor-sharp dialogue, the twists and turns aren’t confusing as we gradually learn more about Paco despite his impenetrable exterior.

Paco’s face never gives away whether he is lying or not, furthermore it impossible to judge his true reasons for operating in the way he does. He is playing a dangerous game, but his skill is unmatched.


Director Alberto Rodríguez continues his with convincing period pieces, first the 70’s with Marshland and the 90’s here, that make you think. Despite the intricate plot, including frequent jumps back and forth from Paris to Madrid, The Man with Thousand Faces isn’t a hard story to follow. The well written script features a final act that is near impossible to predict. All acting involved is near flawless, especially Eduard Fernández as Paco, and the near complete lack of a soundtrack further draws the viewer’s attention to the intricacies of the plot. A wonderfully constructed film that will keep you guessing right to the very end.

One short of a sixer.

5/6