The Method Movie Review
Set almost entirely in a nicely-appointed conference room in a Madrid office building, The Method begins with a very telling split-screen montage: As we watch the characters go about their morning routines, traffic is piling up and the streets thickening with protestors. The IMF-World Bank conference is in town and the anti-globalization forces are marshalling for a Seattle-esque day of angry confrontation. But this is of little concern to the seven, who have taken advantage of the protests (many offices have shut down for the day) to go to a group interview for an executive job at Dexia Corporation. Of course, we are never privy to knowing what it is that Dexia does, but such specifics are entirely beside the point.
The fanged screenplay by Piñeyro and Mateo Gil (The Sea Inside, Vanilla Sky) is a last-man-standing battle of wills as the seven -- all well-scrubbed, smartly dressed, confident, and highly articulate -- wage psychological warfare around a long table. Dexia's "method" seems extreme at first, but it wouldn't be surprising if it already exists out there in some Darwinian management book. There is no interview, per se, instead the candidates are given messages and tasks to perform on the computer screens in front of them; after each task another candidate is eliminated. It's all very worthy of a mid-season replacement show on Fox: First, they're told one of them is a Dexia mole who must be smoked out. Later, they have to imagine they're in a bomb shelter after the apocalypse and only have supplies for five: who do they get rid of? Dexia plays some subtler tricks, as well, serving the candidates a foul-smelling lunch. At first, most avoid eating it, but all it takes is a couple guilt-inducing lines from the secretary and soon they're all diving in.
We've seen these sorts of contests being played before, and at first it's hard for The Method to sustain much interest. It's clear that personalities will slowly be teased out of each of the candidates as the tasks become more intense, that Dexia will toy with them invisibly (the only present member of the corporation is a young and rather inscrutable secretary, first seen contentedly shredding documents, a telling nod to the disposability of everyone showing up for the interview) until cracks appear in their smooth business facades. The dialogue is snappy, though, and it's intriguing to see how the different personality types are laid out by a Spanish filmmaker, from the weaselly bootlicker to the gruff and arrogant paragon of "Iberian macho." The presence of two women among the seven -- one a sultry type who has a romantic past with one of the men, and the other a middle-aged music executive whose can-do spirit and bright smile are ratcheted too high for reality -- adds a brittle tension to the dynamic, particularly later on when one of them is sprawled out on the couch in a feline post-coital slumber.
What keeps Piñeyro's film from seeming like just another entry in the annals of corporate-world satires is the knowledge that no matter how far these people and this corporation go to seal themselves off and act out their psychological warfare, there is an inescapable reality awaiting them all. In one telling scene, we see the candidates from outside the building, the soundtrack the deafening roar of the protesting crowds fighting for the future. As The Method winds down to its final betrayal (Is work more important than love or friendship? Do you have to ask?), the hollowness of it all becomes deafening as well. They play self-important and self-gratifying games in the climate-controlled vacuum of a room, while down on the street, the world is happening.
Aka El Método.