Palm Pictures // 2005 // 115 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Adam Arseneau (Retired) // August 14th, 2007
When HR goes too far.
Imagine And Then There Were None reworked as a corporate job interview, and you'd have The Method, a taut psychological drama from the screenwriter of Open Your Eyes and The Sea Inside. It may be an exaggerated critique on the cutthroat world of international business, but anyone who has interviewed with a major corporation lately and found themselves answering bizarre personality questions will find The Method uncomfortably familiar.
In Madrid, seven applicants arrive at the gleaming corporate headquarters of Dexia, a multinational corporation to interview for the same desired executive position. To their surprise, all seven find themselves placed in the same room together, with no visible interviewer; only blank computer screens placed in front of seven chairs. They are asked to fill out application forms -- the same forms, as one interviewee points out, as have already been filled out in previous visits. The forms state that they candidates will be subjected to a new kind of interview process to test aptitude for candidates, an American method called the Grönholm Method.
Suddenly, the screens light up, and the interview begins. Slowly, painfully, the candidates are put through hypothetical situations that lead them into conflict with one another. They are mislead, manipulated, probed and prodded into anger, resentment, suspicion and paranoia, as all seven candidates began to fight tooth and nail for the job. However, only one candidate can remain...
The Method is a thriller that hardly moves. Composed entirely of dialogue in a single room, packed with paranoid glances and panic sweats in three-piece Italian suits, it is the cumulating of every anxiety about interviewing for a job taken to reality television absurdity, wrapped around a scathing critique of corporate culture . The end result is a smart, cerebral drama almost entirely verbal. The idea was bound to happen eventually. When you lock people in a room together for any length of time, crazy stuff can happen. Mix that with a job application where only one person can be left standing and you've got yourself a movie! Well, a play adapted to a movie.
Adapted from the subversive Spanish play "El Método Grönholm" by screenwriter Mateo Gil (The Sea Inside, Open Your Eyes and Vanilla Sky), The Method is corporate dog-eat-dog culture taken to the level of Objectivist nightmare; a Big Brother style reality television show where ego and selfishness override all other aspects of personality. Here, candidates are selected not based on their credentials or job experience, but by an unknown set of criteria set by a team of mysterious psychologists (or so they believe). Once a candidate "fails" a section of the interview process, he or she gets expelled from the applicants, forced to leave. It's a like a Google job interview with the cast of Survivor.
Paranoia, confusion, self-doubt and cruelty set in as each candidate, whether actively or passively, begin to undermine each other's credibility and worth for the mysterious job, a position which is never defined. In truth, it could be any job -- the scope of The Method is much larger than a simple job application. It is no coincidence that during the interview, the city of Madrid is currently under siege by anti-globalization protectors in the streets below. The applicants coolly undergo their rigorous and disorienting testing while the city is torn asunder by those protesting the very corporations these candidates are struggling so hard to be a part of. The film has a lot to say about the state of corporate politics; the contrast is striking, and very critical of its protagonists simply for being there, in this position, interviewing for the mother of all corporate jobs while the world burns outside.
Though I have not seen the play from which The Method is adapted in person, the story seems to translate well to screen. The singular room location creates a tense atmosphere; not quite terror, more like that profuse anxiety sweat you get when waiting in the lobby for that job interview you really want, but secretly doubt you are qualified for. It is also painfully obvious the material here was based on a play; the dialogue, the set, the entire one-room scenario, all tell-tale signs of its dramatic origins. All the tension and conflict stems from the interactions between these seven strangers, united only in their common desire for a single position with the company. The interview brings out the worst in the candidates before too long, as each begins to subtly sabotage each other's chances at advancing to the next round. In The Method, it's a kill or be killed corporate world, and the interviewees stop just short at doing exactly that.
Only the coldest of managerial hearts would fail to see the black comedy elements in The Method, the satirical edges that slice and dice viewers into fits of anxiety. As globalization takes root in the world, as job markets move from regional to international, corporations can now pick and choose the best of the best. Here, we have the employer, a multinational corporation as some mythic, unknowable entity; an all-seeing, all-knowing force that knows every aspect of its employees, laying them bare for all to see. No secret can be kept from them, and if you try; well, there's the door. We don't even know what the company does as a function to earn money. The satire cuts deep. At first glance, the film seems delightfully whimsical; a thriller fueled on all the malevolent, negative personality traits of human beings, set in the most likely of locations -- the corporate board room. Then, reality sinks in. After all; anyone who's actually worked in an office would be the first to tell you exactly how honest and accurate The Method is.
Marvelously well-acted, The Method works as a drama almost entirely due to its stellar performances, all impressively convincing. At first, all the candidates are mere business suited cookie cutouts, indistinguishable from one another; but as the hours trickle by and the intense psychological tests continue on, we slowly learn more about each character -- not a lot, mind you, but enough to create a sketch. All the dialogue, the behaviors, the reactions seem fully realized as individual personalities. One is a parent, the other is from Argentina. Two are former lovers; one has roots in union activity, while another was a whistleblower in his last job. Slowly, all their secrets are laid bare at the expense of attaining the unobtainable, the exalted job. And once the interview runs down to the last two candidates, things really start heating up. The ending sequence alone is worth the price of admission.
The Method has a washed out and muted style, a no doubt deliberate stylistic choice. Color saturation and black levels are virtually nonexistent; the film is composed almost entirely of steely corporate grays, which suits the film to a tee -- the ambiguity of the color palate matches well with the subject matter. It looks good; stylish, you know? However, a noticeable amount of PAL ghosting is present, which is unfortunate.
In terms of audio, Palm gives us the choice between a surround 5.1 track and a stereo track, both in Spanish. The surround is a nice touch, but wholly unnessary here; dialogue is clear in both tracks, and the film is almost entirely neutral in terms of ambient effects or soundtrack -- just talking, talking and more talking. English subtitles are included.
Extras are thin, in that all we get is a fifteen-minute "making of" featurette, the US theatrical trailer and some previews.
With a running time just shy of two hours, The Method can take its toll. This is an awfully long time to sit in the same room with a handful of people arguing back and forth. As gripping as the dialogue and character development is; as interesting and fascinating as The Method is, when you boil it down, it's a handful of people in the same room, debating, for two hours. Is it too much to ask for like, a coffee pot to explode or something?
Cerebral and unsettling, The Method is a subtle and masterfully executed thriller that will appeal to those who like their thrillers entirely dialogue-based. I'm sure there's one or two of you out there. Surprisingly effective, The Method garners the finest of comparisons to dramas like Glengarry Glen Ross and 12 Angry Men, and not just because of all the talking.
A well-executed low-key drama, The Method is worth a look. Just don't watch it the day before you go interviewing for that new management position.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Palm Pictures
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Spanish)
Running Time: 115 Minutes
Release Year: 2005
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Making of Featurette
* US Theatrical Trailer